Monday, July 15, 2013

The Wall Street Journal on law school faculty cuts

The WSJ has a couple of stories today about the cuts to staff and faculty that a handful of law schools have made in response to declining enrollments (see previous posts here and here).  In the first, Amid Falling Enrollment, Law Schools Are Cutting Faculty, the WSJ provides some dramatic data on the financial impact that declining enrollments have had on law school budgets.  Hamline, for example, expects to enroll 55% less students this fall than it did in 2010 which has resulted in shrinking the faculty by 18% and the school continues to explore ways to "scale back its head count."  Seton Hall has cut its enrollment this year by 43% resulting in the possibility of future lay-offs for some non-tenured faculty though the school is hoping to avoid that.  Here's an excerpt:

Law schools across the country are shedding faculty members as enrollment plunges, sending a grim message to an elite group long sheltered from the ups and downs of the broader economy.

Having trimmed staff, some schools are offering buyouts and early-retirement packages to senior, tenured professors and canceling contracts with lower-level instructors, who have less job protection. Most do so quietly. But the trend is growing, most noticeably among middle- and lower-tier schools, which have been hit hardest by the drop-off.

Over at the WSJ Law Blog, there's a short Q & A with Professors Tamanaha and Campos about the faculty reductions and "buy-outs" quietly taking place at some schools.  Professor Tamanaha is quoted as saying that "law schools are about to get walloped" since many just graduated some of their largest classes ever and simply do not have close to the same number of students ready to enroll this fall.

Mr. Campos compared the faculty trims to “stealth layoffs” like those made by big law firms hoping to avoid bad publicity when shedding junior lawyers and partners.

“In academia it’s even easier to hide,” he said. “The incentives of people being laid off to keep that unrevealed are also very strong.”

The problem could get worse — soon, said Mr. Tamanaha. Enrollments for the class that began in the fall of 2010, and graduated earlier this year, were as high as they’ve ever been. But since then, first-year enrollments have fallen off sharply. And the numbers for the class to start this fall are likely to be even worse, he said.

“We’re effectively replacing our most profitable class with what will likely be our least profitable,” he said. “Law schools are about to get walloped.” Many schools can expect to lose “millions” as a result, he said.


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