Monday, January 7, 2013

Chronicle of Higher Ed on law school crisis discussion at AALS

The Chronicle of Higher Ed has filed the following report from the AALS conference that concluded Sunday noting there's only one job for every two law grads as well as concerns that some schools might close because of plummeting applications:

Law Deans Confront a 'New Normal' as Schools Adjust to Job-Market Changes

With applications to law schools in free fall and many of their graduates struggling to find jobs to pay off staggering debts, about 3,000 legal educators gathered here over the weekend to discuss what a panel of law deans referred to as "the new normal."

It's a world where unemployed graduates take to the courts to sue their schools and where structural changes in the job market are forcing schools to revamp their curricula and slash spending.

Participants at the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools described the hard choices they're making and the tough messages they're delivering as they seek to reinvent their schools.

"Whether or not it's true, there's a perception of absolute crisis and chaos in legal education," said Frank H. Wu, dean of the University of California's Hastings College of the Law. He described how the freestanding Hastings school had shrunk its class size this year, from 425 to 320; increased the teaching load of faculty members; and cut staff positions.

"I've been so candid with my faculty that I worry about faculty morale, but without that understanding, they're still going to come in with unrealistic demands," he said. "The question is, Is this a blip or is it permanent? I happen to believe we're dealing with a profound, permanent, structural change" in the legal job market, and by extension, in legal education, he said.

. . . .

If law schools hadn't begun to trim their enrollments, those lines could have been crossed as soon as next year, said Jerome M. Organ, a professor of law at the University of St. Thomas, in Minneapolis. If the Law School Admission Council's early numbers hold up, just under 53,000 students will apply for seats in next fall's class, he said. Over the last decade, law schools have never admitted fewer than 55,500 into their entering class.

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