Monday, November 21, 2016
Financial Times, Law School Admissions Collapse Continues: They Are Being Forced to Innovate or Face Being Left Behind:
Since 2010, US law schools have experienced a drop in student admissions to a level not seen since 1973, when there were 53 fewer schools than today (204). The number of first-year students entering law school in 2015 dropped to just above 37,000 compared to 52,000 in 2010, according to figures released by the American Bar Association. The latest enrolment numbers are due in December.
[M]any law schools have responded to the challenging conditions by thinking creatively about what they offer — including a greater focus on skills-based instruction. ...
Barry Currier, managing director of the legal education section at the American Bar Association, which accredits more than 200 law schools, says a compressed course of two years rather than three can have advantages for some. “Some schools are designing programmes like two-year JDs as no degree can be less than 24 months under our rules. You can speed things up and that gets you into the job market,” he says. “Twenty years ago law students could work in summertime in [legal] fields and maybe cover their tuition for the following year, so taking three years did not seem too bad. That’s less the case now.” ...
In a 2015 address Blake Morant, then president of the American Association of Law Schools, said that the “current tough times have compelled us to think more creatively about pedagogy and curriculum.” He also pointed to new programmes that explore the intersection of classroom doctrine and the real world; some schools such as Notre Dame Law School and University of Illinois College of Law now offer semester-long “externships” in major US cities, he said.
The tougher market has compelled some schools to cut class sizes to maintain the quality of students. Sarah Zearfoss, senior assistant dean for admissions at University of Michigan Law School, says she made the decision in 2011 to shrink the class from 360 to about 300. “The national pool had got too small for us to have the same size and quality of class we had had for many years,” she says. ...
Falling student numbers hit revenue too. Barry Currier of the ABA points out that law schools look to other income streams by offering more degrees beyond the basic JD, targeting international students or running masters degrees or non-JD programmes that are aimed at people who do not want to practise but to go into a related area like compliance.