Sunday, January 5, 2014

Wall Street Journal reports on how law schools are adjusting to declining enrollments

From the Wall Street Journal Law Blog:

Law 2014: Paring Back at U.S. Law Schools Continues

It’s been some tough sledding for law schools in recent years, as enrollment plummets and recent graduates scramble to land legal jobs.

 

This week legal educators are gathering in New York to discuss those topics and more at the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools. On the docket: the myriad challenges law schools face, and the steps some are taking to adjust — including experiments with how law is taught, and who teaches it.

 

In 2013, first-year enrollment at U.S. law schools  plunged to levels not seen since the 1970s, according to the American Bar Association. Last fall 39,675 full and part-time first-year students matriculated, an 11% drop compared to 2012.

 

“It’s important for us both to recognize that the legal profession has been soft for entry-level lawyers, but also to really affirm that law school is absolutely the right choice for the right student,” Lauren Robel, Provost of Indiana University Bloomington and AALS’s immediate past president, said at a news conference on Thursday afternoon kicking off the conference. “I worry that those students are being diverted now into other types of programs when our country needs them to continue to think seriously about law.”

 

The biggest problem, of course, is mathematical. In recent years the supply of recent law graduates has far exceeded the number of available positions, though the enrollment drop may eventually correct that.

 

Some legal work that lawyers once performed is increasingly being farmed to outsourcers, who can do it more cheaply and, sometimes, more efficiently. As the number of traditional BigLaw entry-level slots falls, law schools must focus more on finding their students nontraditional positions where law degrees are not required — but where law graduates could have a significant edge, and make a decent living, said Daniel Rodriguez, Dean of Northwestern University School of Law and AALS’s president-elect.

 

Not every school is having a hard time.

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