December 13, 2012
Current Law School Admission Stats Not Looking Good
Law schools should be getting nervous about applications these days. The latest Law School Admission Council numbers as of December 7th shows 106,608 Fall 2013 applications submitted by 16,241 applicants. That’s a 22.4% drop in applicants and a 24.6% drop in applications from 2012. Paul Campos calls this “free fall.” He also predicts that the decline will hit the lower ranked schools the hardest as students with good scores will have a choice of better schools than they might when the applicant pool was higher. See my previous post on this subject, Prediction For Law Schools Is Cloudy With Chance Of Closings, for earlier numbers provided by Campos.
So what does this all mean? I think in cash-strapped times it could mean closings, especially for lower ranked tuition-driven institutions. It’s not a question of taking in marginally qualified applicants if they are not there in the first place. The ABA is known to frown on schools admitting unqualified students for the purpose of taking tuition money and flunking them out after the first year. It may or may not get that ugly depending on whether this trend in applications continues. Law schools are going to need a better job market and better publicity for the trend to reverse. I don’t see it happening without a major boost to the economy. I think it was Herbert Hoover who said in 1932 "Prosperity is just around the corner." Even law school deans are not that naïve to think the economy will save their bacon.
Another possible fall-out is a reduction in law school “resources.” Some faculty positions may be at best unfilled and cut at worst. Cutting support staff is another favorite move in the quest to save money. It’s always easy to move out someone who doesn’t have a lot of clout in the operation. I don’t know how it will be played out at various institutions, but I do think it’s going to be worrisome for those in the trenches.
This leads me to two other pieces of law school news. One is that the Association of American Law Schools has placed Villanova on probation within the organization because of its false reports on admission data from awhile back. The reason it took so long for AALS to do this is because the situation is unprecedented in the organization and unlike the ABA, AALS is not an accrediting body. The full letter from AALS communicating their decision is at the Villanova web site. The ABA 2011 Letter of Censure is here.The second is that Indiana Tech’s new law school in Fort Wayne is just about ready to open its doors for operation in August of 2013. An anonymous donor provided eight tractor-trailers worth of books to the school. According to Fort Wayne’s journalgazette.com, the collection was acquired from another startup law school that failed to get ABA accreditation. It’s nice that Indiana Tech received the donation. It should be, however, a cautionary tale that setting up a law school does not always lead to success. [MG]