Chaos is a ladder. And right now, the legal education business is chaotic. Prospective law students are starting to wise up to the law school game. Applications have been dropping as law schools struggle to explain how it makes sense to go deep into debt just to participate in a very challenging job market. It’s very likely that the smarter people with good options are avoiding law school, leaving many law schools competing for a less intelligent crop of students. And still, more law schools are coming.

I don’t know if some law schools will fail, but I do know that some law students will be taken advantage of. But some law schools will also “win.” Some will come out of this “crisis” stronger and better off than before. Bloomberg Law crunched some numbers and has come up with some interesting stats on which law schools are gaining strength through the crisis, and which ones are grasping at straws…

Here’s the Bloomberg video:

Let’s pull out some of the stats. Since it’s Friday, let’s start with something positive. While law school applications are down 12% nationally, here are the low-ranked (bottom 100) law schools that gained applications over last year:

Low-Ranked Schools with Application Increases

Texas Tech
– Rank: 105; Applications up by 19%

Florida International
– Rank: 105; Applications up by 17%

City University of NY
– Rank: 132; Applications up by 10%

Florida International and Texas Tech are relatively cheap if you are from the state (if you are crossing state lines to go to those schools, somebody should punch you). CUNY is actually a reasonably priced law school. It’s $11K per semester for out-of-state residents. It’s only $7K per semester if you’re from New York.

Also, schools already in the top 25 are doing well despite the drop in applications. I think the scientists call it a “flight to quality.” The top national schools, the kinds of schools we were looking at in our own Above the Law Rankings, are still the ones providing access to the high-paying jobs that even have a chance of justifying very high tuition. Only six percent of the top schools saw a decrease in their class size, and none of them — zero top-25 schools — felt the need to make more offers this year than last year.

If the top 25 are the thoroughbreds, the next 25 are the buckets they put behind the horses that drag carriages in Central Park. According to Bloomberg, 12% of the schools ranked between #25 and #50 made more offers, while nine percent saw a decrease in their class size.

Students have always known that there is a big difference between borrowing $100K to go to Columbia versus $100K to go to Rutgers. But now they seem to think that there’s a big difference going to Rutgers for free or just waiting and trying to get into Columbia next year.

Speaking of Rutgers, they seem to be a big loser from this crisis. As we mentioned in Morning Docket, applications to Rutgers-Camden have fallen off the table. From the Philadelphia Business-Journal:

Rutgers School of Law-Camden saw a massive drop off in 2012 and one of its deans says the school is working hard to recover from “an existential threat.”…

The biggest drop off was at Rutgers Law-Camden, where from 2007 to 2011, the school had between 216 and 282 first-year students. But there was a drastic decline from 282 first-year students in 2011 to 116 in 2012. Rutgers Law-Camden Vice Dean John Oberdiek said in addition to the downturn in law school applications nationwide brought on by the economy, the massive enrollment decline was due largely to the uncertainty that emerged from the prospect of a Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University merger that was debated in early 2012 as prospective students were deciding where to apply to law school. The plan, in which all of Rutgers-Camden, including the law school, would have become part of Rowan, was called off by the New Jersey state legislature. But Oberdiek said the merger talk had already done its damage.

Given that the Rutgers approach to education seems to involve throwing basketballs at people, threatening pregnant women, publishing aggressively misleading statistics about its program, and, oh yeah, ignoring the requests of a gay kid who needed a new roommate, I’m not sure that you can blame everything on the fact that people were concerned that they wouldn’t get a degree sufficiently larded with the Rutgers brand.

Anyway, here are some other schools that suffered precipitous drops in applications:

Biggest Drops in Applications

La Verne — 79%
Arkansas at Little Rock — 40%
Hawaii — 38%

Can somebody fill me in on what happened in Hawaii? Is the job market especially weak there? Too many Thetans coming out of the volcanoes?

Let’s end with the most embarrassing stat. Here are the schools that are about as selective as a lonely sailor at last call:

Highest Offer Rates

New England Law School — 88%
Phoenix — 86%
Vermont — 83%

My God, what do you have to do to not get into New England Law School?

“Why do you want to attend law school?”
“HODOR”
“What is your ATM pin number?”
“HODOR”
“Okay, you’ve got labor law first thing in the morning.”

Law school enrollment cut, faces ‘existential threat’ [Philadelphia Business-Journal]


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