The higher education bubble is popping especially loudly for law schools across the country.
To attract students, who now seem to be gravitating to real jobs instead of further eduction, some law school administrators have been falsifying employment data. Tax Prof Bog offers a discussion concerning the potential disciplinary actions that should be taken against the deans.
Following up on yesterday’s post, Subjecting Law School Officials to Professional Discipline for Deceitful Marketing to Prospective Students: Deborah Jones Merritt (Ohio State), Deans Disbarred?:
That’s a specter that Ben Trachtenberg raises in an important new piece that will appear in the Nebraska Law Review. Trachtenberg reviews the misleading practices that have tarnished legal education during the last few years — from manufactured admissions statistics to deceptive employment data — and asks whether any of this conduct violates the legal profession’s Rules of Professional Conduct.
For the fraudulent acts committed by Paul Pless at the University of Illinois and Mark Sargent at Villanova, the answer almost certainly is “yes.” … Personally, I think it’s embarrassing that no one has filed disciplinary complaints against Pless or Sargent. The new deans at Illinois and Villanova should have done so as soon as the wrongdoing was substantiated. This would have been an effective way to close out these incidents — and to signal to the public that we take integrity seriously in the legal profession.
But let’s move on. What about all of those other “lesser” acts of deception that law schools have practiced? Trachtenberg catalogues many of these: the rosy representations of high employment rates, the omissions of material data (such as the number of graduates reporting salaries, the number employed by their own school, or the number working part-time), the clever use of nested statistics, the understated debt, and the failure to explain significant details about scholarship awards. Do any of these acts violate the Rules of Professional Conduct?
Trachtenberg acknowledges, somewhat reluctantly, that courts would hesitate to discipline much of this behavior. … Unethical behavior doesn’t start with the big acts, it begins with the small ones. Once you abuse another person’s trust, even in a small way, you set the stage for larger lies. And the abuses here weren’t so small: Law schools made specific representations about salaries, scholarships, and other facts to encourage six-figure investments. The people making the representations were professionals with advanced degrees, who had inside knowledge of the legal industry. Most of the people receiving the representations were college students with relatively little knowledge of either law schools or law practice.
Deborah Jones Merritt: Should Law School Deans be Disbarred for Misleading Prospective Students? (Tax Prof Blog)