Spreadsheets Consume SoCal Law School Trial


     SAN DIEGO (CN) – A former Thomas Jefferson School of Law employee was asked Monday to recall tedious details from 10-year-old spreadsheets as the landmark law school trial got into the nitty gritty.
     Karen Grant was called to the stand Monday morning for a second day of questioning by the law school’s attorney Michael Sullivan. She worked for the law school for one year between 2006 and 2007, as assistant director of the school’s career services department. Grant was tasked with gathering and compiling the self-reported employment data of Thomas Jefferson graduates, which was sent to the National Association of Law Placement.
     Schools accredited by the American Bar Association are required to report the figures annually, which then published in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Graduate Schools.”
     The main plaintiff in the lawsuit, Anna Alaburda, claims she relied heavily on the figures reported by Thomas Jefferson that were published in the “Best Graduate Schools” catalog when she chose to go to school there. She claims the school made 144 errors in 15 years in reporting its graduates’ employment records, a statistic the school disputes.
     Sullivan’s questioning focused on multiple spreadsheets and how individual graduates from the 2006 class year Grant reported as employed. Grant testified she was directed by her boss Laura Wesley to always report students as employed if they ever held a job during the reporting period, regardless of it was temporary or they lost their job along the way.
     During Sullivan’s questioning, Grant was unsure of when exactly during her tenure at Thomas Jefferson she was instructed to report unemployed students as employed. She had testified Thursday during questioning by Alaburda’s attorney Brian Procel she was told her first or second day on the job to report the employment figures that way, but Grant’s own handwritten notes indicate she was told about it a few months after she was hired.
     Video of Grant’s deposition from 2013 shown by Sullivan in court indicated she had a vague picture of the instructions and conversations she had with her superiors during her first couple days on the job.
     “You’re asking me questions from three years ago about something that happened 10 years ago. I’m doing the best I can to tell you the truth. I did it then and I’m doing it now,” Grant said.
     Everything Grant did during her short time at Thomas Jefferson she said she believed to be proper protocol. When she asked her supervisor if it was in fact correct to report unemployed graduates as employed if they had held a job at any point during the nine months after graduation, Grant said she was told “it’s not a big deal and everyone does it.”
     Grant said she did not consult the reporting guidelines she was given, nor did she contact a dean from the school or anyone at the National Association of Law Placement because she believed following the instructions of her supervisor was the proper thing to do.
     “None of those people were my boss. It felt funny to be writing the numbers down like that once the process got going. But she was my boss and I was brand new on the job and wanted to follow instructions,” Grant said.
     The spreadsheets were “living documents” that Grant regularly updated as she worked to track down Thomas Jefferson graduates to report their employment status following graduation. Grant said many graduates from Thomas Jefferson were spread out all over the nation and she frequently tracked them down from social media accounts like Facebook and LinkedIn if she was unable to get a hold of them personally.
     Grant was unable to track down only six graduates the year she was assistant director of career services, a huge improvement from the 30 or more graduates that were typically unaccounted for in the years prior to her employment at the school, she said.
     Redirecting his questioning, Sullivan focused on Grant’s personal work journal where she logged her interactions with Wesley and Beverly Bracker, assistant dean of career services. Grant garnered some laughs from the jury box when she spoke candidly about her relationship with Wesley and when Sullivan read aloud from the journals, which contained quite a few expletives.
     “I would record my ranting into the word processor instead of in the workplace,” Grant said.
     Despite her disagreements with Wesley, Grant repeatedly told Sullivan she would not characterize their relationship as broken. Grant told the jury her boss was frequently absent – out sick or working from home – which she said had a negative effect on her ability to do her job and look professional.
     “I did not dislike her, I disliked the way she was running the department,” Grant said.

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