Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Response from S.J. Quinney College of Law

Yesterday, I received a response from the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law. Here it is, in its entirety. This was sent out on Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at 11:02 am.

RE: Employment statistics

Dear [Nando],

This is a response to your message emailed to us on November 18. We have been unable to reply due to one or both of us being away from the law school on business until Friday the 20th. Thank you for bringing to our attention the employment data contained on the Facts-at-a-Glance information sheet we have been distributing at law fairs earlier this fall. Your close reading of the material did identify an error we had missed in the production of the sheet. The salary statistics refer to employment data for 2008 graduates working in private law firms. The data we intended to place in that section of the fact sheet was data for all employed graduates of the Class of 2008 working in all sectors of employment that are reported to National Association for Law Placement. This was an inadvertent error on our part and we regret any inaccurate impressions it may have created. We will be posting a message on our website and sending email messages to candidates who visited our tables at law fairs acknowledging our mistake and correcting the information. The overall median salary for the Class of 2008 that should have been listed was $62,400 and the overall range was $25,000-215,000. [Emphasis mine]

We would like to provide some context to how the data found its way on to the Facts-at-a-Glance you reviewed. The professional design and production of our recruitment materials were delayed this year. In order to have the most commonly requested information available for events, we had to create an information piece in-house. The fact sheet you picked up was that document. We were limited in space we had available for data in the in-house fact sheet. To accommodate for this limitation in the employment section we elected to simply give the overall median salary, full salary range and employment rate for the class of 2008. Normally, with professionally designed materials and on our website, we are able to list salary ranges and employment distributions for all the categories from the National Association for Law Placement survey. Obviously, the proofing of the in-house document did not catch the employment section error. Associate Dean Aguilar accepts full responsibility for this error. The links to the pages on our website that provide the accurate employment information are:

In your message you also asked if we would be willing to submit our figures to an outside, independent audit. If you are requesting to view the individual survey response information submitted by members of our Class of 2008, that request must be denied because of the sensitive nature of the salary information provided and the assurance of confidentially assured to our students. If you have any additional questions about our students’ employment, please feel free to contact our Director of Professional Development, Anneliese Booher. She has been cc’d to this message.

Thank you for your interest in our program and bringing to our attention the error on our Facts-at-a Glance.

Reyes Aguilar Hiram Chodosh
Associate Dean Dean
University of Utah University of Utah
SJ Quinney College of Law SJ Quinney College of Law

I give the school credit for responding to my letter, and doing so in an honest and forthright manner. This is refreshing. However, it is unnerving that this had to be brought to the school’s attention by a disgruntled JD. (Who knows? Maybe the law school knew about this and intended to keep it under wraps until it was brought to their attention.)

I love how the response is structured. In the first paragraph, the school thanks me for pointing out an "error." By doing so, it denies any attempt at fraud or deception. It then lists the "proactive course of action" the school will undertake to correct this mistake. Paragraph two offers excuses and explanations for the numbers - apparently, it is not entirely their fault. In the last substantive paragraph, the school hides behind "privacy concerns" as the reason why it cannot (read: will not) submit its employment figures to an independent audit. Also note that the associate dean for admissions and financial aid is the one who falls on his sword for the school.

The overall median for the Class of 2008 at Quinney was $62,400. Not exactly a great figure. Also, the salary range of $25,000-215,000 seems more accurate. So, this simply shows that you can indeed graduate from a “first tier law school” and still end up making $25K a year. What a great investment, huh?!?!

Fact: the S.J. Quinney College of Law is ranked significantly higher than Seton Hall’s law school. Yet, Seton Hall purports that - among its last graduating class - those in private practice earned a median starting salary of $125,000. This is brazen fraud. This raises the question: How many other law schools blatantly fudge their numbers?!

I want to thank all of you who have commented on this blog - even those of you who act as industry apologists. You have helped make this a better, more informative site. Those of you who commented on my last entry stating that the purported average starting salary of $89,021 was wrong have been vindicated by the school’s response. The school has acknowledged that this figure was incorrect and based on an error.

Lastly, as much as I would rather not spend Thanksgiving further informing my in-laws of the law school scam, it is better than eating crow!! (However, my existing student debt load will make it hard for me to digest the JD from my third tier turkey law school.)


  1. It reminds me of the errors I find on restaurant bills and other invoices I receive. If they are "errors," then why does it seem like 90% of the time they go in favor of the person making the "error"?

  2. Apparently, this was a comedy of errors. I'll bet they had to meet with their lawyers first, before coming up with this response. Error, my ass!

  3. What employer pays a law school grad $215,000/year? This graduate must have had a lot of unique capabilities/skills, supported by significant work experience. My point is that $215,000 offer, if true, has to be extremely unusual. It is unfortunate (really criminal) that law schools are publishing misleading/fradulent employment statistics to justify outrageous law school tuition. Today's reality is that the typical law graduate will be offered $30,000 to $40,000/year if he/she is fortunate to receive any legal offers at all. Thank you for this blog; hopefully prospective law students will be able to make informed decisions to attend law schools.

  4. Does anyone here remember their Professional Responsibility and Ethics course in law school? I vividly recall how adamant the law "professors" were with regard to false or misleading advertisements on the part of lawyers and law firms. "Even if you have gotten huge settlements for prior clients, it is unethical to promote this as a typical outcome for your services."

    And they are right on this count. But, as with most legal and ethical requirements imposed on attorneys, this does not apply to the industry itself. Seeing an extreme high starting salary will entice more applicants to this particular law school. And that is what these high-end figures are designed for - to entice more lemmings to take the plunge.

  5. In statistics, I seem to recall that outliers were thrown out to provide a more accurate representation of the data. That $215k salary has got to qualify. Even if they also toss the $25k figure, I'm sure there are still plenty of grads making in the low 30's.

    Also, it's nice how they just dismiss it as a simple clerical error like they misstated how many books their library owns. "Oh, you're wondering how you are only making $40k out of law school when the average salary is $80k, well actually we got the figure wrong three years ago. It was actually supposed to be $60k, which mostly reflects the higher salaries the top 10% make. Sorry for the mistake. Enjoy paying off your loans."

  6. are still posting this stuff. Go order a prostitute. It will help you out.

  7. Glad to see the Utah Law administration decided to weigh in.

  8. Even the so-called "corrected" median salary of $62,400 is likely horseshit. These stats, if not totally imaginary, must be based only on the incomes of those graduates employed as lawyers (a minority these days).

    It likely does not refer to ALL graduates regardless of occupation and therefore deliberately deceives the reader into believing that the majority of graduates can expect to make $62,400 at graduation - they can't. Even that figure is impossibly high.

    They should at the very least state the total number of surveys used in the calculations. There is absolutely no transparency here. It's just a facade - it's like a sweater, you pull on one thread and the whole thing falls apart.

    Facts-at-a-glance more like lies-at-a-glance.

  9. 62k still a very respectable average, especially considering the cost of living in Salt Lake City/Utah environs. (is that where most grads end up?) Perhaps the median salary instead of average might tell a different story. Like I said in a previous post, you get enough of those 215k type people, you throw numbers off significantly.

    I'm a little surprised that the 215k stuck even after the revision. I'm sticking with my former theory that there might've been mid-career execs that went "back to school" for kicks. But very impressive for Utah to have attracted those execs in the first place.

    One last question: is Utah's law school heavy on the Mormon population? I have heard that Mormons can be pretty connected (as in good networks) and as a group are relatively wealthy.

  10. Oh, one last thing: Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

  11. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you too. I will be in Cortez, CO this weekend.

    Both law schools in this State rely heavily on Mormons to fill out their seats. Mormons have their networks, and many have strong connections simply due to being in the right family or having the right credentials - i.e. strong church service, beautiful young wife, faithful children, etc. This is true even in non-Mormon states like Iowa. They are close-knit.

    Those at the top are pretty wealthy. But, just like any other group, the majority are poor or financially insecure.

  12. I would bet my left thumb that the 215k is an executive in a family-owned business. Likely the son or daughter of the founder.

  13. To me, the 215k number isn't that surprising, but it is misleading. I'm guessing it's a high-level executive who was already making that kind of money BEFORE entering law school. After graduating, he either got a raise (unlikely) or just maintained his current salary. He certainly wasn't going to leave his cushy job for an entry-level ADA position.

    I'll give this school credit for owning up to their "error" even though I'm sure the numbers are still fudged.

    On to the next diploma mill!

  14. The $215k could be a liar. Or it could be a solo practictioner who had a good year.

  15. I'll bet the $215K figure was an executive also. The fact that the school lists this figure is misleading. It gives prospective students the false impression that law firms pay starting salaries of $215K.


  17. It seems like every time a law school has its numbers challenged they find an inadvertent “mistake.” Several months ago there was a story in the WSJ regarding North Dakota outpacing Harvard in placement of graduates in federal clerkships. When pressed on their data, North Dakota admitted that a “mistake” occurred. ND provided that they did not actually place 25% of their graduates in federal clerkships. The number of placements was actually zero. Other TTT schools also admitted that they made “mistakes” in their placement numbers.

    If the “mistake” had placed the starting salary $20,000 lower than expected, I wonder if the Utah brochures would have still been provided to prospective students. As a commentator above noted, these mistakes always seem to favor the law schools image. Strange.

    I wonder how much manipulation goes on in the sample collection. Do the law schools hound the top 10% until they get their salary information and leave the bottom 20% alone? I don’t know anything about Utah law, but have you considered making a formal FOIA request for the information under the applicable state statute? If it’s a public school, they should be required to provide the information with the appropriate retractions.

  18. I am looking into this. Right now, I am out of town. But if the state statute allows for it, I will file such a request.

    The S.J. Quinney College of Law is a public school, and as such SHOULD be required to furnish this info. Honestly, how hard is it to redact the names of graduates and firms/businesses?

    I agree that these "mistakes" and "errors" are convenient for the industry. I am also leery of the new, corrected figures. And I love how the school acted like I requested to see the info - did I present myself as an auditing firm? I simply asked if they were willing to submit those figures to an audit.

  19. Wow. This is really awesome. Amazing that they admitted so much via email. You should do a spinoff blog where you simply post emails sent to Law Schools and their responses. AWESOME. To me, their silence is just as telling. KEEP IT UP!!!! I hope that this post pops up on Google Searches.

  20. Another awesome action from the internets most awesome law scam exposer.

    Its no exaggeration to say that scores of students will now benefit by not enrolling in law school because of Nando's actions here.

    On top of the crucial action in handing out leaflets at the law fair, this is direct practical action to take on the law schools, and should be copied right across the nation. This is the way to stop whats going on - direct practical effective action.

    I salute you!

  21. I made the unfortunate choice to attend WillameTTTTe university college of law. I received a 50% scholarship to do so, and had a gpa and lsat score that far exceeded the medians. I figured I would easily be in the top half of the class, and based on their statistics, should have no problem securing employment in the 50k range upon graduation. Then first semester 1L, I made myself comfortable in some of those lesser known student lounges that only 2Ls and 3Ls that are geeky enough to be in student groups hang out in. Every single one of them, all claiming to be in the top 25 percent, were complaining about not having any promising interviews and making comments like, "barista and barrister are pretty close, you know," and, "I could get loan deferment for another year by getting an LLM." This was incredibly discouraging. Then I realized that the teachers don't really teach you anything that will be tested on the exam; it's all a game to find out who the naturally gifted ones are. My decision started feeling more and more like a 15k (+ living expense) a year gamble. I decided to follow my heart and pursue a grad degree in English. If my future is going to be uncertain, see, i'll do it with less debt, less work, equal job prospects, and real personal growth.

    I am quite uncomfortable in any profession that, by its very nature, holds winning higher than truth. In any "adversarial system," victory is the only truth because winning makes
    you right.  Concepts of right and wrong are subjective experiences and accordingly it is no mistake that our prison system is filled with prisoners that are culturally different from the writers of the laws.  It is not a dragon I can slay.  I want no part of it.  I like to be passionate, and will refrain from any delusions of detached objectivity in this lifetime.

    Here's the kicker: I notified Willamette of my withdrawal 3/4 through the semester. So they have this slick little game where the prorate back the tuition from the remaining classes . . . AND they prorate the scholarship. This is a nifty little way of charging someone over $3000 they wouldn't have had to pay if they waited until after the semester to make notice of withdrawal. Cute, eh?

    Now, not only did I get suckered into taking on 15k of new debt to find out this was something I really didn't want (not for the debt and job prospects), but they want 3grand more of my money. (I guess the 4mil they'll take in from the other 160 dummies in that 1L class is not enough!).

    Law school is a scam worse than any pyramid scheme or real estate swindle.

    Dont forget: those that sell rainbows are trying to steal your gold.

  22. To the poster above:

    I am glad you shared your story. Law is a sick industry, even from the way it is set up. I have seen prosecutors play games with people's lives, i.e. many delay producing evidence until the very last minute; they talk directly to defendants, in order to get them to enter a plea; most act like babies when they lose a motion hearing; and then subsequently act like vindictive tramps. They ONLY care about winning and moving up in the DA's office to a better division, such as felonies and sex crimes.

    This is about the same for those on the other side of the table, i.e. they consistently talk their clients into taking "the great deal from the nice young prosecutor." (They don't want to ruin their relationship "with the court" or the DA.) Lastly, MOST judges just want their dockets to move along. They really do not give a crap about truth or "justice" either.

    I am sorry to hear about your experience at Willamette. At least they were brazen in their thievery. One classmate got very sick in the second semester of her first year. She lost her partial scholarship because she dropped out. She came back the next year and graduated with strong grades and journal experience. But she never got any grants or scholarships from the school.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am glad that you got out early, and decided to do something more suited to your interests. Good luck, and I hope you continue to follow this blog.

  23. Nando, I wouldn't waste your time looking into the possibility of getting any meaningful statistical information under Utah's freedom of information law. Most state freedom of information laws are similar to the federal FOIA in that they exempt disclosure of matters that would be deemed an invasion of privacy and this generally covers all information about individual employment history and salaries. Any request for the information would be denied and affirmed if you tried to appeal it. On the off chance that your appeal was granted what you would receive would be so heavily redacted that it would be worthless.

  24. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

  25. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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