Law schools are on pins and needles as they wait for a federal judge to decide whether a lawsuit against Cooley Law School can proceed.

Cooley was one of the first schools to face litigation from scores of law school graduates who are accusing their alma maters of misleading them about job opportunities. As of mid-March, 32 law schools faced such lawsuits. A judge tossed one of the suits, aimed at New York Law School, in late March.

The graduates in the Cooley suit say the school overstated the value of a Cooley law degree by not reporting statistics about how many employed grads had jobs that required law degrees and not specifying whether their jobs were full- or part-time. They seek $250 million in damages.

At a June 5 hearing, Judge Gordon J. Quist disagreed with Cooley’s argument that the grads’ lawsuit should be aimed at the American Bar Association and the NALP, which is the Association for Legal Career Professionals (formerly known as the National Association for Law Placement), which jointly set job-placement reporting rules. However, Judge Quist said the plaintiffs faced an “uphill battle” in arguing that Cooley’s alleged misreporting violated the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.

“You say [the students] wanted to, in essence, get jobs in the legal profession and become high-skilled and high-paid lawyers in some law firms,” he told plaintiffs counsel. “To me, that’s a business reason as distinguished from a consumer-protection reason.”

Regardless of whether Judge Quist allows the Cooley grads’ lawsuit to proceed, law school students’ frustration with the job market probably won’t subside anytime soon. The NALP reported earlier this week that the employment rate for 2011 law school graduates is the lowest it has been since 1994. And in early May, Law School Transparency, a non-profit group that provides law education information to prospective law students, estimated that students in the class of 2015 will rack up an average of $195,265 in law school debt.

Read the Wall Street Journal for more about the Cooley lawsuit.

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