Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

NY Times: Law Schools Scramble To Get Incoming 1Ls To Defer; Columbia Offers $30k, Duke Offers $5K

New York Times, Law Schools Scramble for Deferrals:

In the most competitive year in recent memory, some schools are offering incentives to ease their over-enrolled classes. ...

Too many law students?
Law schools experienced a surge in applicants over the past year, driven by a mixture of factors, including the coronavirus pandemic, the presidential election and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Perhaps the biggest driver, however, was a spike in LSAT scores: Applicants took a shorter version of the admissions test, which was administered online, and had more time to study during pandemic lockdowns. ...

To ease the load, many schools have promised that scholarships will be in place for students if they choose to defer. A few are offering financial incentives. Duke promised $5,000 to students who accepted a “binding deferral” and promised to go next year.

Columbia University also dangled money in front of some students: $30,000 if they deferred. The school focused on recent graduates and also offered some career placement help, like two sessions with a career counselor and a list of open jobs. ...

[L]aw students could face a tight job market three years from now, if this year’s flood makes it to graduation.

Steven Chung (Tax Attorney, Los Angeles), Whether Future Law Students Should Take The Deferral Option Instead Of Joining An Overpacked Class:

Word is that some of the top law schools have admitted more students than they can handle. As a result, they are asking some students to take a one-year deferral. There are a few schools that we know about, but I’m sure there are others. ...

I want to discuss whether future lawyers should take the deferral. ... So what’s wrong with a larger-than-normal class size? Probably the biggest problem with an oversized class is dealing with the infamous grading curve.  ...  So does a bigger class make the curve harder or easier? The answer depends on the strength of the entering class and your test-taking ability. But as the class size gets larger, the chances of you being in the top of your class gets smaller. ...

The next problem is transferring. Transferring to a higher-ranked school is difficult as it is, and law schools with a full class will likely accept fewer transfers. And those chosen are near certain to pay full tuition unless they have other options they can negotiate with.

And lastly, the schools are right to be concerned about job prospects for their future graduates. ...

I can see some advantages to deferring. If you have other options, like a good job, want legal experience or just a desire to have a gap year, this can be the best time to exercise it. ... If you have a high LSAT score, deferring may give you an opportunity to get into a higher-ranked law school next year. ... Finally, you might be able to negotiate a tuition discount in exchange for a deferral.

Law school is a serious investment of time and money. For some, a deferral could mean some time off to think, and it could result in getting into a better school, while others should go now and start their careers as soon as possible.

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