Law School Deans, Law Schools, Trendspotting

Trendspotting: Will Law School Start Decreasing The Supply of Unemployable New Lawyers?

What is this, a law school for ants?

If the American Bar Association was serious about protecting its members, it’d be trying to do something to stop the influx of market-depressing new attorneys. America might need more lawyers willing to work for next to nothing to help those who can’t currently afford legal representation, but the last thing current attorneys need is even more law school graduates competing for the few paid positions available. Let the Obama administration start some kind of Americorps program for attorneys; the ABA should be concerned about keeping the supply of attorneys competing in the private market down around levels that come within shouting distance of demand.

(Of course, the ABA is still trying to figure out how to keep member institutions from lying to the ABA. I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for the ABA to figure this one out.)

Instead, it looks like some law schools are starting to voluntarily reduce the sizes of their incoming classes. We reported on two schools, Albany Law and Touro, doing this back in March, and it seems that the trend is continuing.

I guess there are only so many disgruntled, unemployed graduates these schools want walking around griping about their legal education (or suing them over it)….

Multiple tipsters have sent in stories about the latest news from Creighton University School of Law in Nebraska. The school has decided to reduce the size of its law school classes, on “moral” grounds. Here’s the report from the Omaha World-Herald:

A newly minted law degree is not turning out to be the passport to lucrative employment that aspiring lawyers expected when they signed up for law school and took on tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt.

With the tight job market in mind, the Creighton University School of Law recently informed its alumni that it would be reducing its class size by 20 students for each of the next four years.

“Although demand for a Creighton legal education remains high … we feel a moral obligation to admit fewer students until employment prospects for new attorneys improve,” Dean Marianne Culhane wrote in a letter to alumni.

A law school dean who believes she has a moral responsibility to students at her law school? She’s a witch! “I saw Goody Proctor speaking with the Devil.” Law school deans who take seriously their responsibilities to those they entice into a legal education don’t really exist.

Except it would appear that Dean Culhane is not alone. Over at Western New England University School of Law and Tornado Defense, Dean Art Gaudio is also planning on voluntarily reducing the size of the class. From BusinessWest:

As a result of all this, the employment picture remains fuzzy not merely for the class of 2001 [sic] but for the foreseeable future as well — so much so that the law school is cutting admissions for next fall by 20%, from 125 down to 100, a move consistent with what other institutions are doing, Gaudio continued, adding that the simple laws of supply and demand dictate such action.

“At least for the short term, the need for lawyers is down, and the faculty here is taking a proactive stance on this,” he said. “We’re going to reduce the number of people we’re admitting, at least for now, and the reason is what’s happening on the demand side. Why should we put out lawyers who can’t get jobs?”

Good God man. It’s almost like these deans are starting to realize that people don’t go to law school so they can be international shoe salesmen (wacka wacka wacka), they go to law school so they can get real legal jobs. What’s the point of admitting people you know will have limited or non-existent job prospects?

Sure, in the grand scheme of things, a 20% drop from Creighton or Western New England won’t really do anything to stop the plague of new lawyers descending upon an employment market than cannot support them. But at least these schools are trying to figure out how to admit only as many kids as they can reasonably expect to get jobs after three years.

Some will argue that the class sizes at these (and really “all”) law schools should be even smaller; it’d be great to see the class size at a place like Harvard go down from “football stadium diploma mill” to “basketball arena diploma mill.” But any reduction in class size anywhere is a start and a step in the right direction.

Let’s hope it continues to spread.

Creighton Law pares class size [Omaha World-Herald]
Trials and Tribulations [BusinessWest]

Earlier: A Trend in the Making: Shrinking Law Schools?

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