Unemployed Lawyer Loses Lawsuit Against Former Law School

(photo: Peggy Peattie)

Thomas Jefferson School of Law graduate, Anna Alaburda has lost at trial after a jury did not hold her liable for her inability to find a job after graduation.

Anna Alaburda, 37, claims she applied to Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego partly based on the schools assertion that 80 percent of its graduates found employment as lawyers nine months after graduation. Therefore, Alaburda took out over $150,000 in school loans in order to attend the university with dreams of landing a job in a top law firm. However, after graduating from the school and passing the California bar exam, Alaburda aimlessly floated around doing odd jobs in order to sustain herself. She found it nearly impossible to land a full time job as an attorney with her juris doctorate degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law. This is when she decided to take matters into her own hands by filing a fraud lawsuit in civil against her alma mater.

According to a report in the New York Times, “Alaburda argued that the school reported a higher percentage of its graduates landed jobs after graduation than was actually the case and that she relied on the bogus data to choose to attend the school.” Alaburda relied on California State anti-fraud statutes to argue that the school mislead her into believing that 80 percent of its graduates found employment as lawyers nine months after graduation. In fact, those statistics included graduates who found “such work as a pool cleaner, waitress or sales clerk,” according to the report.

Alaburda is one of many law school graduates across the country who has tried to sue their former schools for publishing what they argue were misleading statistics on graduates chances for high-paying employment after graduation, but the Alaburda case is rare in that it actually made it in front of a jury without being thrown out or settled. Students would have to be “wearing blinders” not to see that a “goodly number of law school graduates toil (perhaps part time) in drudgery or have less than hugely successful career.” Justice Melvin L. Schweitzer of New York Supreme Court wrote in 2012, dismissing a by nine former students against New York Law School.

However, judges in California, which has strong consumer protection laws, have offered more solace to the generation of lawyers who lost out in the legal market, which allows Alaburda to go forward with claims. In other words, although Alaburda’s lawsuit has failed at trial, expect to see this trend continue in the coming years.

Alaburda’s argument was weakened by Thomas Jefferson’s ’s argument that Ms. Alaburda never incurred any actual injury because she was offered, and turned down, a law firm job with a $60,000 salary shortly after she graduated. Alaburda countered that this job offer was less favorable than non-law related jobs that were available. Ultimately the jury sided with the law firm. Michael Sullivan, a lawyer for the Thomas Jefferson School of Law told the jury, “I’m not here to tell you a law degree is a guarantee of career success, is a guarantee of riches,” Mr. Sullivan told the jury. “It’s not. No degree is.”


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