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Submission + - SLAPP-Happy Law School Itself Sued for Fraud (

ecgrimm writes: Slashdot recently covered a SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) filed by Thomas M. Cooley Law School against some Internet critics.

That strategy, predictably, , has backfired, and has increased the attention given to the critics' expression of their views.

Now the other shoe has dropped.

A Manhattan class-action law firm, has filed suit in Michigan federal court, , on behalf of nearly every student to attend or graduate from Cooley for the last several years, accusing the law school of violating state consumer protection laws, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation.

Comment Re:What? (Score 1) 123

Just to be exceptionally clear, the University of Michigan Law School, is a different law school than Thomas M. Cooley Law School. Cooley is not in any way affiliated with the University of Michigan, although Cooley recently did open up yet another campus in Ann Arbor.

Comment Important case -- probably so. (Score 1) 123

I don't know about "the most important free speech case of the decade" -- a lot of cases could qualify for that honor. But I'll agree that this case could potentially become very important.

At least one blogger, who is somewhat less anonymous than Rockstar05, apparently agrees:

I will be very eager to follow this one.

Comment A singer and a lawyer, now that's talent . . . (Score 1) 123

You are quite right. Much the same dynamic is at play, in law school admissions, as in American Idol auditions. Moreover, law schools charge a lot more for tuition, than networks do for "reality" show auditions. Price signals about the actual market demand for legal services, do not get translated very well, all the way back up the pipeline, to the point at which individuals decide whether to attend law school.

Comment A little help for you, Archie. (Score 2) 123

Well, Archie, several issues are packed in there rather tightly, and I have to confess that it was intentional to pack a lot in. This was done with the expectation that the average Slashdot reader will be up to the task presented. Many Slashdot readers seem to "get it" without quite so much difficulty, but let me help unpackage some of the issues for you. Before I begin, let me say that I have many valued friends and professional colleagues who attended Cooley and who secured their law degrees from this school. I am not interested in criticizing Cooley's academic program (I'll leave it to others to form their own opinions), and my primary focus is about their counter-productive litigation strategy.


1. The real, central, issue here is actually much broader than Cooley. It involves what some (like PayPal co-founder and Silicon Valley venture capitalist Peter Thiel) have started describing as a "higher education bubble" or a "student loan bubble" -- after comparing trends in debt-financed education, to the recent collapse of the housing bubble. If the predicted collapse materializes (and the jury is out on whether it will), then you tell me whether Cooley has improved or harmed its chances to keep a low profile when stuff hits the fan. It is certainly premature, today, to predict who might be viewed, in a few months or a few years, to be the Angelo Mozillo or the Countrywide of the education industry. But you are invited to consider this subject, investigate the facts for yourself, and to make up your own mind.

2. The next level down is a phenomenon that has been called "The Streisand Effect" -- a phrase coined by TechDirt's Mike Masnick to encapsulate the paradoxical observation that lawsuits seeking to suppress expression on the Internet, routinely seem to backfire, and often result in the viral amplification of the messages of critics, rather than the result sought by companies like Cooley. Incidentally, the initial submission (which was edited a bit by Timothy) asked an additional question, which Timothy omitted, which is this: Is the example of Cooley's backfiring lawsuit such a good example of this phenomenon, the we might even want to consider updating Masnick's neologism to "The Cooley Effect," rather than "The Streisand Effect?" Personally, I vote for "The Cooley Effect."

3. The lawsuit was actually against several individuals who published material on the Internet. The principal blogger (whose handle is Rockstar05), went to Cooley and can speak from direct experience about what it is like to be a Cooley student. The blogger is a classic dis-satisfied customer. Rockstar05, at least based on published accounts, transferred out of Cooley in order to attend some other law school. The lawsuit has been filed *against* the blogger, and has been filed by two lawyers at the Miller, Canfield, law firm, at the request of Cooley law school. It is helpful to keep track of who is doing what -- the blogger used to be from Cooley, and probably had nothing to do with Georgetown. One of the blogger's adversaries, trying to unmask him or her, graduated from Georgetown University Law Center.

4. One of the delicious and subtle ironies, in this case, is how Cooley (which, presumably, had a lot of lawyers to choose among, because Cooley generates a lot of revenue and can pay top dollar) elected not to hire one of its own graduates, but rather a pair of lawyers who graduated from other programs that Cooley's own promotional literature routinely purports to rank lower than Cooley. This is a very minor issue, and I'm sorry if that's what got you confused. It is just too amusing not to point out.

5. The other, much bigger, policy issue that needs to be addressed, is truth-in-admissions standards not just for law schools, but for higher education, generally. You can decide for yourself whether Cooley's information practices toward prospective students (including, but hardly limited to, the "Cooley Rankings" issued for the past 12 years), actually meet the standards that customers making what often will be the most important investment decision of their entire lives, have a right to expect.

I've written something a bit longer, that covers all of these issues and a few more, in somewhat more detail, and that does not try to cram it all into 3 or 4 sentences.

Having previously advised clients who are upset about things posted on the Internet, I respectfully have to say that I would have given Cooley some very different advice about its best course of action -- based on the circumstances in which it found itself, prior to the filing of the lawsuit. In this case, not only does Cooley face a high risk that its chosen litigation strategy will backfire badly, but quite frankly Cooley deserves it, if such an eventuality comes to pass.

Submission + - Law School Amplifies Critics Through SLAPP Suit (

An anonymous reader writes: Michigan's Thomas M. Cooley Law School recently filed a lawsuit that appears to be boomeranging in the worst possible way. A little-noticed pseudonymous blogger respectfully disagreed with Cooley's self-awarded number-2 ranking, nationwide (well, perhaps no so respectfully), and had a few other choice things to say. So, Cooley went ahead and hired some lawyers who had graduated from Georgetown and the University of Michigan, to file a lawsuit to unmask the blogger. And EFF cooperating attorney John Hermann got involved. Tech Dirt's Mike Masnick once coined the term "The Streisand Effect" to describe the phenomenon of SLAPP lawsuits that boomerang badly. Is "The Cooley Effect" an even better illustrative term?

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