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Statistics May Be True – But Vague

(File photo: Joe Raedle/ Getty Images)

(File photo: Joe Raedle/ Getty Images)

feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Mark Twain famously said there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. Some law students would agree.

Most people who go to law school are hoping to be lawyers. Not sure why. But for graduates of the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law, their prospects of becoming employed lawyers were not what they expected. Twelve grads sued Cooley Law School, claiming that the statistics the law school cited for its grads were fraudulent and misleading.

The laws school had reported that 76 percent of its grads were employed within nine months of graduation. But it didn’t say whether they were employed part time or full time, or even if they were employed as lawyers. And so the graduates, who couldn’t get full-time jobs in the law, sued under Michigan consumer protection laws.

But the court threw out their claim, saying that the law school hadn’t lied, since their statistics were so vague they were objectively true. If 76 percent of their law school grads were employed part time as cashiers, the statistic would be true.

Instead, the court said, the students should have looked closer and asked questions: employed as what? And so should you, if you’re given a statistic to show why a school, product, or service is good for you.

The good news for the law school graduates, even if they didn’t win, is that they did learn how to file a lawsuit.