Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Law schools balance need for practical training with fiscal restraint

This article from the Charleston Post and Courier describes how South Carolina's two law schools are dealing with declining applications together with a bad job market for grads. They acknowledge the need to provide more practical training which employers are demanding while looking for creative ways to pay for it. One of the schools profiled, Charleston School of Law, had the foresight to rent new classroom space rather than pay to build it and hire visitors instead of permanent faculty.  According to the Dean Andy Abrams, their fiscal conservatism has enabled them to weather the present storm better than some of their peers.

Law schools changing with the economy

Leaders at South Carolina’s two law schools — Charleston School of Law and the University of South Carolina School of Law — said the shrinking pool of applicants has forced changes. The schools have had to be more careful with how they spend money, and to ensure that their enrollments don’t drop to a level that won’t sustain them financially.

They also have had to tweak their programs to offer more practical training so students who graduate are ready to begin hands-on legal work.

. . . .

Abrams said his private school is faring better than many other schools because several of its leaders had extensive experience in higher-education management. “From Day One we took a fiscally conservative approach,” he said. “We were all aware of the cyclical nature of enrollments.”

For instance, he said, when enrollment increased in 2009 and 2010, school leaders hired visiting faculty members instead of filling those positions with more-expensive permanent employees. And instead of building a new building or signing a long-term lease for more space, they rented smaller classroom spaces within walking distance of the school.

When enrollment dropped again, which was expected, the school simply let go of the temporary employees and space.

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