Warning From Great Britain: The “Lawscam” Excuse Is Coming To Colleges

It was all the fault of imperial Indian history....

It was all the fault of imperial Indian history….

The controversy died down a bit in 2016, but it is still out there: unemployed young lawyers are still blaming their law schools for the fact that their degrees didn’t deliver riches and success in a competitive field. When a ballyhooed lawsuit by one such lawyer failed last April, it briefly muted the howling, but the central misconception is still virulent. From the Ethics Alarms post about that law suit:

The rejection of Alaburda’s law suit sends a message that young lawyers need to hear, and heed. If they thought a law degree was going to guarantee their success, they have been tragically confused by the culture’s hucksters and politicians, not the law schools.  For too long, education has been sold as the key to income and jobs, when it is nothing but a process designed to make more competent, able, creative and responsible human beings. By itself, a degree proves nothing. It only signifies that its owner has had access to useful knowledge and the chance to develop useful skills. It is up to graduates to use that knowledge and those skills to make a life for themselves. If they fail to achieve their goals, they cannot blame the law school because they perceived a promise that was never made.

One failed suit, however, couldn’t undo the destructive false message society and its leaders have been issuing for decades: “the purpose of earning a diploma is to get a good job.” As more and more young men and women are steered into college and a college degree becomes symbolic of nothing, there will be more law suits by college graduates like the one currently being fought in Great Britain, where Faiz Siddiqui, an Oxford graduate, is suing his alma mater for not giving him a first-class degree 16 years ago. (In British universities, graduating with a “first class degree” is roughly similar to graduating “with honors” in an American college. Based on a student’s grades, Oxford gives out three classes of degrees, first-class being the highest.)

Siddiqui is now 38 years old, angry and disillusioned. In his suit, he alleges that his life and career were stunted because he didn’t earn “a first,” as the degree is called, when he  studied modern history at Brasenose College and graduated from Oxford University in June 2000. “Negligent teaching” in a course on Indian imperial history, he says, pulled down his overall grade and ruined his life. Now he’s asking for a million British pounds in damages for his lack of lifetime earnings in a legal action against the Oxford chancellor, masters and scholars. His barrister, Roger Mallalieu, also claims that Oxford is responsible for Siddiqui’s insomnia and depression.

Apparently the history module was less than optimum while Siddiqui was a student, because half of the teaching staff responsible for Asian history were on sabbatical.  Mallalieu told the British high court that the inferior teaching resulted in his client’s lesser grade and thus “denied him the chance of becoming a high-flying commercial barrister.” Continue reading

Jury Rejects Damages Suit By Jefferson School Of Law Grad Who Claims She Was Defrauded. Good.


A jury this week rejected a law suit by  Anna Alaburda (above), a 2008 graduate of Thomas Jefferson School of Law. seeking  damages on the grounds that the San Diego institution misled her by fraudulently enhancing  job-placement data concerning its alumni. The case had been hailed by supporters of the alleged “Lawscam” conspiracy theory that holds that students across the country have been gulled by promises of riches, firm partnerships and career success into paying for degree that only brought them debt and disappointment. Similar suits had been dismissed or abandoned, and this was supposed to be the lawsuit that broke the dam.

Alaburda’s sad tale was that she has been unable to find full-time work as a lawyer even though she graduated near the top of her class and she still has to pay $170,000 in educational debt. She sought $125,000 in damages: $92,000 in lost income and $32,000 for tuition and fees.  The San Diego Superior Court jury voted 9-3 to reject her fraud claim, however. A single fact in evidence explains why all by itself: she turned down a perfectly good career-starting offer (paying $60,000 a year) from a firm shortly after graduation, apparently on the grounds that she felt the firm was too hard on mortgage delinquents.  Well, the school didn’t promise nice legal jobs: that was her decision, her mistake, and her misfortune. The rejection of the kind of  job offer many young lawyers were desperate for  broke any chain of causality between the alleged fraud and her alleged damages. I’d like to know where Alaburda’s lawyer went to law school and learned that this pathetic case was a viable suit. Maybe that lawyer should sue for educational malpractice. Continue reading

Misleading Legal Website Headline Of The Millenium: “Above The Law”

Here is the headline:

Wait---didn't I just hear the President say that the economic recovery was going just great? Someone tell Danielle, quick!

Wait—didn’t I just hear the President say that the economic recovery was going just great? Someone tell Danielle, quick!

“Graduate Of Elite Law School Forced To Live Off Welfare Due To Terrible State Of Job Market”

The law school is my alma mater, Georgetown Law Center; the student is a 2010 grad who subsequently passed the bar, Danielle Owens. The author of the overwrought article in Above the Law is Staci Zaretsky. Her tone made my mind flash back to “Queen for a Day.”

I don’t particularly want to poke the Lawscam hornet’s nest again, because I don’t especially enjoy having giant photos of my head placed on-line accompanied by obscenities, and I know a lot of bitter out of work lawyers with shaky interpersonal skills, huge debts, a computer and time on their hands have nothing better to do but to blame me and anyone else they can find for their plight (and yes, if I see a couple of them posting a photo like this on Facebook with the caption, “Hello, Ethics Alarms!” I am calling the police.). Nonetheless, I can’t let this pass without noting that the headline is dishonest, and Zaretsky’s commentary on Owens’ problems is exaggerated to the point of hysteria. Continue reading

First Nomination For “The Donald Sterling Award Award”: The American Bar Association

Cracked trophy

It’s time to launch  a new dubious honor here at Ethics Alarms: The Donald Sterling Award Award.

The DSAA gets its name from the embarrassing “Man of the Year” award that the San Diego NAACP was preparing to bestow on Donald Sterling shortly before his racially offensive comments to his mistress were recorded and leaked to the news media. Sterling had already engaged in conduct that seemed to make  NAACP recognition both unlikely and ill-advised, so his award, which the organization retracted, is the perfect model to emulate for future organizations determined to undermine their values and objectives by choosing inappropriate honorees.

And the first nomination for the The Donald Sterling Award Award is The American Bar Association, for its decision to give its 2014 Robert J. Kutak Award to New England Law/ Boston dean John F. O’Brien.  The award is given annually “to an individual who has contributed significantly toward increased cooperation among legal education, the practicing bar, and the judiciary.”

Well, maybe O’Brien technically deserves that award, but then Sterling had given a lot of money to local projects benefiting African-American kids in San Diego, too.  The problem is that O’Brien could serve as the poster boy for the ugly underbelly of legal education and its disconnect to the current economics of the legal profession. In 2013, he gave his school unwanted publicity when it was revealed that he earned a salary of $867,000, among the very highest law dean salaries in the country, while  low-ranked New England Law/ Boston charged $40,904 for yearly tuition. Before considering lowering his own compensation, he started cutting faculty positions, until he finally relented and took a pay cut to a paltry $650,000 a year. I know, it’s less than three Hillary Clinton speeches. But the going rate for deans at the top law schools has been estimated to be “only” $450,000, and O’Brien runs a school that is the opposite of “top.” Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “From ‘Psychology Today’: How To Be A Better Liar—And A Negligent Endorsement Of Deceit”

Every adult a lawyer: the politician's worst nightmare!

Every adult a lawyer: the politician’s worst nightmare!

The second Comment of the Day comes from Australia, as zoebrain flags an excellent example of deceit at work, in her comment to my post about the dangerous tendency to regard deceits as less unethical than straightforward lying, and yes, that’s quite an oxymoron.

One of the many points of contention between me and the lawscam crowd is that many of the aggrieved out-of-work and under-employed lawyers only obtained their law degrees as a means to achieve what they believed were guaranteed riches, and thus feel cheated that the current economic mess has shown that to be a false assumption. I, in contrast, assert that a law degree pays for itself over a lifetime regardless of whether or not it leads to well-compensated employment as a lawyer, and one of the reasons is that legal training inoculates you against the deceit of others. If nothing else, law students learn to pay attention to what words really mean, making it much harder for masters of deceit to fool them with carefully chosen weasel words. A nation of citizens trained in the law would not so easily fall victim to the deceit of politicians, those who peddle bad loans and investments, weight loss scams (“results not typical!”) and the predations of other con-artists….including, sadly, other lawyers.

Here is zoebrain’s Comment of the Day on the weekend’s post, “From ‘Psychology Today’: How To Be A Better Liar—And A Negligent Endorsement Of Deceit”:

“Here’s an example for you: testimony in an Australian Senate inquiry on same-sex marriage”:

Senator Pratt: But what if someone is of indeterminate gender? I am unclear whether they should have the right, according to the way you would argue it, to be part of such a union.

Mr Meney : People suffering from Turner syndrome, Klinefelter syndrome and things of that ilk are typically infertile or regarded as being mentally handicapped in some way. Many things about marriage require people to have the capacity to consent to what marriage is all about, so a significant mental incapacity might be something that might mitigate against a person being able to consent to a contract of marriage. But that is true of any marriage.

Every word true, as befits testimony from the Director of the Life, Marriage & Family Centre, Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney.

“Although they are not mentally retarded, most XXY males have some degree of language impairment. As children, they often learn to speak much later than do other children and may have difficulty learning to read and write.”

——Understanding Klinefelter Syndrome — National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

“Mental retardation is not a feature of Turner syndrome, despite such claims in older medical textbooks. Thorough psychological studies show that these women are normal intellectually, but often have a characteristic pattern of intellectual functioning. While their verbal 10 usually is average or above, their non-verbal IQ may be considerably lower because of problems visualizing objects in relation to each other. This difficulty may show up in poor performance in math, geometry, and tasks requiring manual dexterity or sense of direction.”

—–Turner Syndrome — Human Growth Foundation.

He didn’t lie: it’s true that “People suffering from Turner syndrome, Klinefelter syndrome and things of that ilk are typically … regarded as being mentally handicapped in some way.” They’re not, of course, as he well knows, but that’s not what he said, is it?

That was his defense when the Organisation Intersex International took him to task for this. He didn’t actually lie. As a good Catholic, he wouldn’t do that – it would be a sin.


Graphic: Financial Post