How To Make A Mockery Of Your Own Law School: Sue Your Critics
from the oops dept
Someone named “tuna” was the first of a few of you to point us to the ongoing debacle that is the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. Apparently administrators there aren’t too happy about the fact that some of its students were not pleased with the school, and gave the school negative reviews online. So, rather than responding to the complaints or figuring out ways to improve, the school filed a lawsuit to determine the identity of four anonymous people online who wrote mean things about the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. One of the anonymous people has filed a motion to quash against the school’s efforts:
“In contrast to their own mission statement, Cooley Law School is now seeking to use its power to stymie the constitutional right of free speech of its own students — albeit speech that negatively portrays the school consistent with other empirical data,” Berkley attorney John Hermann said in the motion, filed on behalf of his client, Rockstar05. “Ironically, Cooley is now the emperor who appears angry at being told he is not wearing any clothes.”
The school itself publicized this particular lawsuit, as well as a separate lawsuit against some lawyers who claimed to be putting together a class action lawsuit against Cooley over (the lawyers claimed) “manipulating post-graduate employment data and salary info.” You can see both complaints embedded below.
I have no idea if the statements made by anyone targeted by Cooley rise to the level of defamation. Certainly many of the statements highlighted could be seen as statements of fact, though many appear to be standard hyperbole from someone who had a negative experience. Still, all of this had me wondering about the Cooley Law School, as I have to admit never having heard of it, so I decided to check it out. The law school’s biggest claim to fame appears to be that it has the largest faculty, and if you count all of its various students, the largest student body as well. Bigger is better! But is the school any good?
Well, that’s where things get hilarious.
You see, if you look at the various rankings for law schools, Cooley is considered near the bottom of the heap. The US News rankings have put it as a “fourth tier” law school, in the past, and currently has it as “unranked” because it apparently “did not supply enough information to U.S. News to calculate a ranking.” But, wouldn’t you know it, according to Cooley itself, it’s actually the second top ranked school in the country, behind only Harvard.
How’s that? Well, you see, Cooley’s administration decided to create its own rankings system! A report from last year (at which point Cooley ranked merely #12 on its own ranking criteria, demolished the way Cooley’s own rankings system works:
How did they arrive at this order? Cooley can only make this claim by sufficiently broadening the number of factors and then allotting them equal weight. Traditionally, highly important considerations are GPA, LSAT, Bar passage rate, and employment upon graduation. However, in this scheme they are given the same weight as Total Volumes in Library, Total Applications, Total Law School Square Footage, Program Achievement Rating Rank.
That blog post then goes on to display how Cooley minimizes the importance of the numbers that actually matter. Meanwhile, it appears that some others were similarly flabbergasted by Cooley Law presenting itself as the 2nd highest ranked law school, based on its own silly rankings. Cooley’s own rankings explanation says that they got rid of pesky things like “reputation,” and declare that, without question, “bigger is better than smaller” (even though, amusingly, in the same list, they claim that smaller class sizes are better than bigger!).
The thing is, I wouldn’t have gone out and learned any of this if Cooley hadn’t decided to jump and sue some of its critics. Even if some of the statements turn out to be defamatory, suing your critics is an open invitation for people to take a closer look at you and what you do, and what comes up for Thomas M. Cooley Law School does not look good at all.