The Chicago Employment Law Blog

DePaul University Off the Hook, Bitter Law Grads Still Unemployed

If one were to glance at the U.S. News and World Report's Annual Law School Rankings for the past few years, they would think that law graduates are having no trouble finding jobs whatsoever, especially if they went to a decent school.

DePaul University, in Chicago, is the 83rd best law school in the country. Most of the higher-ranked schools in the country are reporting over 90% employment. DePaul, despite its lower ranking and the pending lawsuit, is currently reporting 76% employment. Previously, the school reported between 88 and 98% employment, reports Reuters.

And it's all (probably) a load of crap. The employment numbers used in the rankings are deceptive; that fact is now well-known to recent law graduates who entered school with dollar signs in their eyes and exited with loan defaults on their credit reports.

The published employment numbers include non-law related employment, legal employment that doesn't require a law degree (paralegals), desperate fast food workers, and other loopholes. Students pay $41,690 per year at DePaul, plus room and board. If a school reports inflated employment numbers, and a student detrimentally relies upon those numbers when deciding to attend, that qualifies as fraud, right?

Well, no. Not according to last week's decision by a local court. The judge in that case dismissed the class action lawsuit because the unemployed DePaul graduates failed to "[connect] DePaul's alleged fraud to their inability to obtain full-time legal employment sufficient to repay their loans." Additionally, the judge stated that the students paid for an education, which they received; they did not purchase a guarantee of a job when graduating. Finally, according to the judge, the school owed no duty to the law students to disclose accurate numbers.

In order to sustain a fraudulent concealment claim, the plaintiff has to show a fiduciary relationship between the deceptor and the deceptee. In a fiduciary relationship, one person places utmost trust and confidence in another person and an obligation exists to act in the person's best interest. These relationships can be created by an express agreement, such as a contract, or implied from a relationship such as attorney-client. The court found that there was no history in Illinois of a school having a fiduciary duty to its students.

Despite the unfavorable ruling, the case isn't dead. The broke barristers who brought the case plan to appeal the decision. Similar cases have been upheld in California against Golden Gate University and the University of San Francisco. Cases in New York and Michigan have failed.

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