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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, July 7, 2014

Boston Law Schools Shrink Enrollments, Faculties

The Boston Globe:  Waning Ranks at Law Schools:

BostonYears after the end of the recession, enrollment at the nation’s law schools continues to plummet, a wrenching shift that has forced many schools to cut expenses and raised concerns about the long-term financial prospects of some. ... With a difficult job market making students increasingly hesitant to take on massive student loan debt, nearly all law schools in Massachusetts — one of the top areas in the nation for legal education — have seen enrollment suffer.

The persistent decline has forced many law schools to take drastic measures. Suffolk University, where first-year enrollment fell 15 percent last year, recently offered buyouts to all faculty with tenure or with renewable long-term contracts, and Western New England University in Springfield has pared back its faculty among a number of cost-cutting measures. ...

At New England Law School in Boston, first-year enrollment has dropped 40 percent since fall 2010, while Western New England saw a 28 percent decline. In response, New England Law School last year froze wages, offered buyouts to some faculty members, and reduced its administrative staff. The dean, John O’Brien, took a voluntary pay cut of 25 percent.

Globe 1

Globe 2

“Students are being cautious, having seen what happened,” said Vincent D. Rougeau, dean of Boston College Law School, where first-year enrollment fell 14 percent over the past three years, to 230 last year. “We’ve pretty much become accustomed to declines.” ... Not long ago, many top students saw law school as a “natural progression” from their college studies that would pay strong dividends in their careers, Rougeau said. But the speed and scope of the current decline suggests those days may be gone, observers say.

Legal Education | Permalink


2500 annual bar passers for about 700 entry-level lawyering jobs at any salary level. All six of the law schools in/adjacent to Boston stickers north of $200,000, exclusive of undergrad debt. The law school out in Springfield, a town so buried by the economy that real estate listings in its suburbs say "only 25 miles to Hartford!" instead of "only 3 miles to Springfield," costs in the neighborhood of $180,000. The two not-fully accredited law schools are jokes. In at least a plurality of the Boston schools, the law schools have been run as piggy banks for the university and/or administration. Only 3 of the 9 law schools even muster a FT, LT, license-required percentage north of 50%. In so many words, then, you reap what the hell you sow - and it is proving to be a bitter harvest indeed.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jul 7, 2014 7:40:14 AM

Bitter, bitter, bitter, Mr. UN. Almost as bitter as ATL. According to the article, law school enrollment has plummeted, and that appears to be so. As with most things, time will tell whether the market, aided and abetted–if not prodded–by the anti-law school doomsayers, is over-correcting.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Jul 7, 2014 8:23:35 AM

BU's decline in applications from 8500 to 4500 is absolutely enormous. I am curious to see what if any changes my be coming.

Posted by: JM | Jul 7, 2014 9:52:09 AM

To be bitter without reason is foolish, but to turn the other cheek when intentionally misled about an allegedly primrose path is equally foolish. Those people deserve my enmity, and they will receive it.

Also, nothing about law school admissions, marketing, or financing resembles a market in any way, shape, or form.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jul 7, 2014 10:29:40 AM

BU had more applications than BC; seated a great class last year and will do the same in the fall; will be hiring 2 faculty this next year as well. BU, BC and Harvard are doing just fine.

Posted by: Anon | Jul 8, 2014 11:33:58 AM

I would love to see law schools "do just fine" so long as class sizes shrink and tuition comes down to earth.

Posted by: HTA | Jul 8, 2014 1:07:55 PM

@ 11:33 Anon,

Really? Because from what I see, despite BU cutting its class from 268 to 210 in recent years, they also had to drop the 25th percentile LSAT from 164 to 161 and the GPA from a 25th percentile 3.5 to a 3.4. It seems you are having trouble fielding at least part of your class; probably has something to do with that nearly 50% drop in applications. The median LSAT and GPA's are also down, as are the 75th percentiles. During the same period, tuition was raised almost $8000 even though Biglaw salaries remain flat, median starting salaries nationwide are falling, and BU barely places half the number of grads in Biglaw as before the recession. Those don't seem to be very healthy indicators to me.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jul 8, 2014 2:37:57 PM

Maybe they should move to California.

Posted by: michael livingston | Jul 8, 2014 11:58:33 PM