Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Northwestern Law Dean Cites School's 'Difficult Time' As Reason For Faculty Cuts

Northwestern (2018), Northwestern Law Dean Cites School's 'Difficult Time' as Reason for Faculty Cuts:

Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law is cutting staff and teaching positions amid a financial shortfall.

Dean Kimberly Yuracko informed the Chicago school’s faculty of the downsizing plan and budget problems in a message to its internal listserv, saying the school is in a “challenging financial position.” In an interview Monday, Yuracko, who sent the message to the school’s faculty in late September, said that the law school is not in dire financial straits. She said that a directive from the central university to reduce expenses and her new deanship—she took over in September—spurred her to take a close look at how and where the law school was spending its funds. ...

Northwestern Law’s situation is notable for several reasons. It dispels the notion that elite law schools—Northwestern is ranked No. 11 by U.S. News & World Report—are immune or at least buffered from the fiscal woes that have plagued many law schools since 2010, when enrollment and the national applicant pool shrunk significantly. Second, it demonstrates aggressive fundraising is no cure-all for financial pressures in a fiercely competitive law school environment. ...

In addition to reducing staff, clinical, and lecture positions through eliminating vacant jobs and not renewing certain short-term teaching contracts next year—tenured faculty positions are not under review—the school is increasing the size of its LL.M. class to increase revenue, she said. Affected clinicians and lecturers have been informed that their contracts will end this academic year, she added. ...

Yuracko’s review found that some of the clinics offerings were consistently under-enrolled. “What really struck me as I delved into our financial situation is I felt like we were structurally a little bit off, given where our J.D. numbers are,” she said. “We had experienced a lot of growth over the years as our J.D. sizes increased significantly, then they weren’t down a little bit. What this felt like to me was rightsizing. It wasn’t that our budget was in trouble. But it felt like we weren’t spending our money as well as we could and having the best impact for our students.”

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Unlike the article suggests, the number of applicants to Northwestern Law have not decreased by a statistically meaningful amount from 2011 to 2017. The former year had 4,548 apps and the latter 4,472, though the number of acceptances did increase from 864 to 1,063. It's interesting that the law school has almost twice the acceptance rate of the undergraduate school but I digress...

The real cause appears to be the increased unwillingness of NWLS students to pay sticker. In 2011, 30.6% of the student body got tuition discounts with a median discount of $20k. Only 9.3% got discounts of half tuition or greater.

In 2017, 78% of the students got tuition discounts, the median discount was $30k, and 43% got half or more knocked off their tuition. That's a big change. To engage in some reductive back of the napkin math, just that increase in >50% tuition discount recipients represents, at a minimum, (284 - 76) * ($62,084 / 2) = $6,456,736 in lost revenue.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Nov 6, 2018 9:07:17 AM

Northwestern law is competing with some of the best law firms in the world for legal talent. Why would an associate at Mayer Brown, with a T3 law degree and a Federal clerkship, leave her career in private practice for an academic career with a school in a “challenging financial position”? Especially when she could teach on the other side of town at a much more prestigious law school. Perhaps Dean Yuracko intends to recruit JD-PhDs with no legal experience.

Posted by: Short Sighted | Nov 6, 2018 12:54:24 PM

Boy, someone is super insecure about PhD-JDs for some reason. Say, can that person who spent one year at Mayer Brown conduct complex civil litigation on her own? Write a will without a template? Properly manage client funds? Let's not forget that Langdell explicitly sought out grads fresh out of school to teach because he believed the practice of law would "sully" them. Things aren't that different today.

But to answer your question, because there are more Amlaw 10 or Vault 5 or whatever associates with VAPs, PhDs, and/or major fellowships under their belts looking to escape the Sitzfleisch grind than there are legal professoring jobs for them (per Prawfs and elsewhere), said associate will just be glad to get off the billable hour assembly line. Supply and demand, you see. Ask an economist about them.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Nov 9, 2018 11:03:13 PM