Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Slate: A Bunch of Law Schools Are About to Go Bust. Hooray.

Slate:  A Bunch of Law Schools Are About to Go Bust. Hooray., by Jordan Weissman:

In the world of law schools, every day is sort of like Black Friday.

OK, slight exaggeration. But with applications in free fall, schools are locked in a brutal competition to attract students who might theoretically one day be qualified to sit for a bar exam. And that, the New York Times reports today, has meant slashing tuition and dolling out discounts. At Northwestern University School of Law, one of the top ranked institutions in the country, “74 percent of first-year students this academic year received financial aid, compared with only 30 percent in 2009,” the paper notes. The University of Iowa, University of Arizona, and Penn State University have cut their prices. J.D.s are on sale! ...

It seems fairly obvious that some law schools are going to have to close in the not too distant future. Between the fall of 2010 and fall of 2013, enrollments dropped 24 percent. This year’s crop of new students should be even smaller. And while schools are doing everything in their power to pare back expenses and prop up their head counts, it seems like someone is going to fall victim to a collapsing demand. “I don’t get how the math adds up for the number of schools and the number of students,” Northwestern Dean Daniel Rodriguez, told the Times. That’s because it probably won’t. ...

If about 10 percent of law schools closed, that would mean about 20 casualties. Could that possibly come to pass? I don't know, but I wouldn't entirely rule it out.

Universities decided to close their dental schools for a variety of reasons. Some were financial—Georgetown’s program was headed for a multimillion-dollar deficit. Some were academic: With fewer applicants, some institutions felt they couldn’t keep up standards. But the point is that law schools are facing similar pressures. Many institutions opened law schools precisely because they were supposed to be cash cows and won’t be particularly psyched to suddenly start subsidizing them. Meanwhile, qualified applicants are now harder to find for schools with some semblance of standards, because the biggest application declines have occurred among students who scored in the middle-to-high range on the LSAT. Or, as [Jerry] Organ writes, “For law schools, 2014 looks a lot like 1985 did for dental schools.”

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I used to correspond with Jordan Weissman (mostly to correct his factual mistakes) when he was the higher ed reporter for The Atlantic, a role in which he mostly bemoaned growing student debt and the law school crisis. Since moving over to Slate, he has contradicted virtually everything he wrote at The Atlantic. With this article, he contradicts the story he wrote just a few months ago about how the Class of 2016 will all land BigLaw or whatever. He writes whatever his editors require him to write, which makes most of it rather useless.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Dec 2, 2014 1:11:05 PM