Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Several law schools plan to reduce class size; one by as much as 33% but will expand online offerings to non-lawyers to make-up lost revenue

The Wall Street Journal had a story a few days ago noting that at least 10 law schools plan to cut their class size in response to the poor job market for grads (a cynic might say that the cuts are intended to maintain their USNWR ranking in light of dwindling applications). Among the schools referenced in the story is Creighton and Hastings. The deans at Northwestern and George Washington say they are also considering cutting class sizes with Dean Berman at GW suggesting the issue is not whether, but how many applicants to cut. Also check out coverage by the ABA Journal blog here.

The Minnesota Post is now reporting that Hamlin School of Law, the "fourth-ranked school in a four-law-school town," is taking the extraordinary step of reducing next year's incoming class by 1/3 - I'm guessing that's the biggest cut announced by any law school to date. To make up for that huge loss of revenue, Hamline will be offering online classes to non-lawyers seeking a little career enhancement. Here's the story:

To cope with changing market, Hamline retools with Law School 2.0

Next year, Hamline will enroll an entering class of prospective JDs that is one-third smaller than in years past. Its offerings, however, are swelling — many of them aimed at non-lawyers.

Meanwhile, the advent of the iPad has enabled Hamline to become the first law school to conduct class via mobile app.

A one-time assistant U.S. attorney and co-founder of Halleland, Lewis, Nilan & Johnson, Lewis is poised to reinvent the whole concept of law school. As he sees it, there may be far fewer jobs [PDF] for people who earn law degrees and then pass the bar exam, but the demand for professionals in other fields who have specialized legal training is surging.

At the same time, while Hamline may not be U.S. News & World Report-ranked, it boasts the No. 3 alternative dispute resolution program in the country, which provides a wide array of training in dispute resolution, as well as an eight-year-old, top-20 Health Law Institute and a new Business Law Institute.

Schools have long offered certificate programs to help would-be attorneys specialize in a particular kind of law after they pass the bar. But several of the nine certificate programs offered by Hamline law are open to people who are not law students or lawyers. Lewis would like to add more.

Indeed, the nontraditional students don’t even need to be in St. Paul to attend class. Students in this year’s inaugural international business negotiation certificate program, for instance, each were given an iPad bearing a first-of-its kind app developed by Hamline’s Dispute Resolution Institute (DRI). The tablets contain class readings and links to supplementary online content and allow students to convene via Apple’s chat and FaceTime features.

. . . .

Demand for workers who have skills in regulatory compliance is growing, but those employees don’t necessarily need to invest three years and six figures in a full-fledged law degree.

Nor do they need to quit their jobs and go back to school, thanks to technology. DRI Director Sharon Press has enrolled a cohort of certificate candidates from Hong Kong who will be able to interact with classmates who are attending the old-fashioned way, in St. Paul, via their iPad apps.

Another, newer app will open up the school’s Health Law Institute’s highly regarded Health Care Compliance certificate program.

“Our goal was to produce an experience that would combine traditional face-to-face with a technology that truly enhances the ways students interact with the curriculum, their teachers and each other,” said Lewis.  “What we we’ve learned in these successful certificate programs will inform how we use technology to enhance other offerings, including our JD programs.”

If Lewis has his way — he’d have to win over accrediting authorities at the American Bar Association, among others — the number of non-JDs with legal training that could eventually include a master’s degree or other work-force-driven possibilities could grow in all kinds of directions.

Check out the full story by clicking here.

Hat tip to the TaxProf Blog.


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