Online statements are 'lies'-- Cooley Law School sues New York attorneys and bloggers for defamation

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By Frank Weir

Legal News

Recently, a graduate of Thomas Jefferson School of Law in California filed suit against the school claiming it had lied about its graduates' employment statistics.

As the legal job market for new graduates has become more problematic, criticisms against law schools about their institutional statistics reporting have increased.

But Thomas M. Cooley Law School is fighting back after being directly attacked by two lawyers in a New York law firm and other online bloggers.

The school filed two lawsuits last Thursday to "protect the reputation of the school and its students and alumni from defamatory Internet attacks," a Cooley spokesperson said.

In the two actions, the law school asserts defamation and other legal claims against a New York City law firm, two lawyers in that firm, and four anonymous Internet bloggers.

"With ethics and professionalism at the core of our law school's values, we cannot - and will not - sit back and let anyone circulate defamatory statements about Cooley or the choices our students and alumni made to seek their law degree here," said Brent Danielson, Chair of Cooley's Board of Directors and a retired District Court Judge.

The lawsuits were filed in Ingham County Circuit Court.

In one lawsuit, Cooley contends that the law firm of Kurzon Strauss LLP and two lawyers in that firm, David Anziska and Jesse Strauss, defamed Cooley by falsely claiming on Internet websites, social media, and email that Cooley, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) Michigan educational corporation, has defrauded students by misrepresenting its graduate employment placement rates, average starting salary figures, and student loan default rates.

In the other lawsuit, Cooley claims that four anonymous Internet bloggers defamed the law school in a series of Internet statements on several websites over the last few months.

"Cooley has consistently and truthfully reported job placement and salary figures in the manner required by the American Bar Association (ABA), our accrediting agency, and by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), a national jobs-reporting clearinghouse," said Charles Toy, associate dean of Career and Professional Development at Cooley and the immediate past president of the State Bar of Michigan.

Consistent with all 201 ABA accredited law schools, Cooley's job placement rates are reported annually to the ABA and NALP nine months after graduation based upon the results of graduate surveys in full compliance with the reporting methodology required by those agencies.

Cooley's reported job placement rates have ranged from the current 76 percent up to 82 percent in 2006, with a similar range reported back to 2000.

"Everyone has the right to state an opinion about Cooley, online or elsewhere," said James B. Thelen, Esq., Cooley's associate dean for legal affairs and general counsel.

"But our lawsuits contend that these defendants have crossed the line both legally and ethically, smearing our reputation with blatantly false and often vulgar statements that they attempt to spread as broadly as possible.

"In one online statement," Thelen said, "the Kurzon Strauss firm claimed as facts that there were reports that Cooley students defaulted on their student loans at a 41 percent rate and that Cooley was misreporting its default rate.

"Both are lies. Cooley doesn't even calculate its default rate - that function is handled by the U.S. Department of Education's Default Prevention and Management Office, and our last official two-year default rate calculated by the federal government was 2.2 percent."

Cooley Law School, based in Lansing, is accredited by both the American Bar Association and the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges.

On the most recent Michigan bar examination, Cooley's graduates had the second highest pass rate of the five Michigan law schools, just behind the University of Michigan.

About the Thomas M. Cooley Law School:

Cooley Law School is the largest law school in the nation. Founded in 1972, the private, non-profit 501(c)(3) Michigan educational corporation operates J.D. programs across Michigan with campuses in Lansing, Auburn Hills, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor.

Today, Cooley Law School has more than 15,000 graduates across the nation and worldwide and also offers joint degree and master of laws programs.

Cooley offers enrollment three times a year, in January, May and September.

Additional information about Cooley can be found at cooley.edu.

Published: Mon, Jul 18, 2011

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