The FTC should begin an investigation into U.S. law schools. Many law schools are violating the FTC Act by reporting false and misleading employment statistics. The FTC has jurisdiction over law schools because they are professional schools oriented towards preparing students for legal careers and therefore, provide pecuniary benefits to students. If a law school reports false or misleading employment statistics in marketing materials or to U.S. News and World Report, the law school engages in deception and false advertising in violation of the FTC Act. Reporting false employment statistics is deceptive as prospective law students have limited, or no, resources to determine a school’s actual employment statistics. These employment statistics play a material role in a prospective law student’s choice to attend a law school. . . .
And here’s the paper’s abstract:
This paper examines the potential legal application of the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act) to American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law schools. In recent years, evidence has emerged indicating that many law schools are misreporting or falsifying employment statistics in marketing materials and to the U.S. News Rankings and World Report law school rankings, the preeminent rankings for United States (U.S.) law schools. The reporting of false or misleading employment statistics to prospective students may violate provisions of the FTC Act that prohibit deceptive practices and false advertising. This paper reviews evidence that U.S. law schools are misreporting employment statistics, examines how the FTC Act applies to U.S. law schools, and argues that U.S. law schools that misreport or falsify employment statistics violate multiple provisions of the FTC Act.
And here’s the complete cite:
Murray, Joel, Professional Dishonesty: Do U.S. Law Schools That Report False or Misleading Employment Statistics Violate Consumer Protection Laws? (May 27, 2011). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1854709
Everything is negotiable. Most law firms have flat rate contracts with LexisNexis and/or Westlaw. The databases also have transactional or hourly (more accurately: minutely) charging. For example, according to the March 2006 Westlaw Plan 1 Price Guide, to search the ALLSTATES database costs $ 13.86 a minute. Some firms charge their clients these per minute rates, even if they are paying for the service under a flat rate contract. If this is not done with the client’s knowledge, it can lead to a dispute, as this story in the National LawJournal reports:
Consumer protection attorney Patricia Meyer filed a suit against New York’s Chadbourne & Parke on March 2 for allegedly overcharging J. Virgil Waggoner, a Texas businessman, by several thousands of dollars for computerized legal research. His bill was roughly $20,000 for the research, she said, but it should have been closer to $5,000. Waggoner v. Chadbourne & Parke, No. BC408693 (Los Angeles Co., Calif., Super. Ct.).Meyer of San Diego’s Patricia Meyer & Associates said that many similar lawsuits are in the pipeline, noting that she has amassed evidence that shows at least a dozen other law firms are overcharging clients for legal research, but not telling them.
. . .
“This appears to be more widespread than you would think,” Meyer said. “Basically what we’re finding is that certain law firms are using Westlaw and Lexis as profit centers, as compared to simply passing along their actual costs to their client….Quite candidly, what we’re finding is the clients really have no idea that this is going on.”
ELIZABETH G. THORNBURG, Southern Methodist School of Law
Appellate judges in the twenty-first century find themselves in a world in which litigation – both civil and criminal – involves a vast array of complex and technical factual disputes. These lawsuits, in turn, may cause judges to seek a greater level of expertise in order to deal competently with the evidence that will be relevant to the disputes. At the same time, advances in communication technology have brought the world’s library to the courthouse, requiring no onerous trips across town or index searches but only the click of a mouse. This combination of felt need and ready access has turned a once-marginal concern into a dilemma that affects courts and litigants daily. The problem of judicial research has always been with us, lurking in the margins, and yet we do not have a workable framework for discerning when it is and is not permissible. We can no longer fail comprehensively and rigorously to engage this question, because it is now taking on a central importance to proper judicial decision-making in an increasing number of cases. The stakes are high. Whether and when judges independently may research cuts to the very heart of our adversary system of justice: these questions implicate directly the ethical role of the judge, the balance between fairness and efficiency, the rights of the parties, and how we view the rule of law. This article therefore argues that states should reject the current proposal and adopt instead a rule that provides clear guidance to judges, notice to litigants, and transparency to the judicial system.
Source: LSN Law & Courts Vol. 2 No. 61, 10/28/2008