By Anthony S. Volpe
Special to the Legal
The recent reports about law schools misreporting the LSAT scores of the incoming class and the job successes of new graduates raise a concern about their ethics and the obligation of those schools to provide ethical education. Despite requiring students to attend ethics classes and speaking frequently of the law being a higher profession and not just an occupation, law schools do not see themselves are being subject to the same rules. While there may be a current clamor to treat law as more of a business than a profession, treating it as a business does not change the ethical criteria that apply to law schools. It is truly an instance where they need to lead by example.
The problem does not appear to be getting better as students are resorting to using their education to sue the law schools. And, the law schools are resorting to fighting on the basis of administrative errors and the fact that enrollment was not a guarantee of career success. Their actions bring shame onto both of them.
Law schools cannot blunt the consequences of their false reports by blaming them on the “administrative” arm of the school. If a school is negligent in its administration, it is guilty of sins of commission and omission. The institution must operate as a law school and it does not exempt departments of any type from ethical obligations. This no more and no less is to be expected from medical, engineering, business or any other school. It is the foundation of any profession or trade. When the business world was racked by ethical violations, law schools did not announce that they were attributable to the accounting department’s reporting process rather than the corporate governance. It is a matter of the whole meeting the obligation.
Likewise, students who aspire to be the guardians of the law cannot excuse themselves by saying they had no idea the economy was stagnant or that the job market was poor. Students at that level need to be responsible for their own decisions. Furthermore, even casual students of economics know that almost all professions are subject to employment cycles. Even a minimum of due diligence would have alerted the students to the current marketplace conditions for law school graduates. Those conditions were being reported in publication of general circulation and in legal publications that were not controlled by the law schools.
Law schools cannot shirk their ethical responsibilities and students cannot shift the responsibility for their decisions onto the law schools regardless of any ethical violation. They both shamed the profession.
Anthony S. Volpe is a founding partner of Volpe and Koenig. He can be reached at TVolpe@volpe-koenig.com.