Paul L. Caron

Monday, June 11, 2012

Hamline Cuts Entering 1L Class by 33%, Replaces Revenue With Certificate Programs for Non-Lawyers

Hamline LohoMinnesota Post:  To Cope With Changing Market, Hamline Retools With Law School 2.0:

Let’s say you are the dean of the fourth-ranked law school in a four-law-school town. Like other programs, your applications for admission have sputtered from robust to anemic. Hardly anyone but you is brave enough to say so publicly so far, but the jobs aren’t coming back.

As it did pretty much everywhere, a recession popped a legal-sector bubble in your community, also deflating the popular notion that your degree is a one-way ticket to prosperity. You can barely crack open the paper without finding a headline shrieking about the number of new JDs in this country who can’t pay their rent, let alone their loans.

You have a great product, delivered by a fabulous faculty, but is that enough anymore?

Your business model might just be as anachronistic as the market you’re sending your grads into. Lawyers are being replaced by technology and/or by off-shore competitors, and the big firms are subject to the same kind of downward pressure on pricing that bulldozed a financial trough through health care and other once-untouchable industries.

What do you do? The dean of the Hamline University School of Law, Don Lewis, has an idea: You go in search of a game that plays to your strengths.

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. ...

[W]hile Hamline may not be U.S. News & World Report-ranked, it boasts the No. 3 mediation 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. The tablets contain class readings and links to supplementary online content and allow students to convene via Apple’s chat and FaceTime features.

(Hat Tip: Joel Michael.)

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This is an excellent and innovative approach. Hamline should be congratulated, and should look to expanding its non-J.D. offerings to include master's degrees in law-related subjects. Unfortunately, the snobs in the legal professoriate will not look favorably on this movement away from the legal-academy-as-educator-of-law-professors paradigm.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Jun 12, 2012 8:59:52 AM