Wednesday, January 1, 2020
Following up on my previous posts on the ABA's release of the 509 reports for every law school (links below): Mike Spivey, An In-Depth Analysis of the 2019 Law School Admissions & Entering Class Data:
[T]here seems to be something of a split in class size changes by USNWR rank.
The top 50 ranked law schools actually accounted for a decline in 352 incoming students—while all other schools added 264.
There are many potential reasons for the flat matriculant data. Many law schools responded aggressively to the early and mid 2010s decline in applicants by reducing their footprint: smaller faculty sizes, less expenditures, a focus on a "lean" operation. These schools may prefer their new operating model. Or they might not feel they have the capacity to bring in larger new class sizes.
There are also a tremendous number of schools who see the advantages of maintaining relatively smaller class sizes. There are compelling arguments to do so from both a career outcomes perspective and a rankings perspective.
While the legal market has improved substantially, there are still significant challenges to graduates seeking employment. 22.3% of the 2018 graduating class failed to secure full-time, long-term, JD-required or -advantage positions within 10 months of graduating. And of course, bar passage rates remain a significant concern at many law schools, particularly in light of the ABA's new accreditation requirements.
Other schools are focused on taking advantage of the substantial rankings benefits a smaller class size brings. Aside from allowing a school to better control and increase its median LSAT and GPA, smaller class size has a direct and positive effect on student/faculty ratio, acceptance rate, and employment outcomes. It can also help a school's expenditures per student, an incredibly important component of the USNWR rankings.
Prior TaxProf Blog coverage: