Law Schools, Layoffs, Money, Staff Layoffs

Much-Maligned Law School Conducts Faculty And Staff Layoffs

Back in July, following the news of the possible purge of junior faculty at Seton Hall and the staff massacre at McGeorge, we wondered: “Which law school will be next?” With law school applications still in free fall, something, somewhere, had to give, and it certainly wasn’t going to be beautiful buildings, the price of tuition, the number of tenured professors, or their similarly splendid salaries.

No, the easiest way to save money — $4.4 million of it — is by dropping the unimportant human weight, and the most expendable souls seem to hail from the adjunct faculty and staff ranks at the latest law school to conduct layoffs. Which esteemed academy of legal education could it be?

We’ll give you a clue. The school is no stranger to controversy, seeing as it served as the origin of the very first law school lawsuit over deceptive employment statistics ever filed….

The law school in question is none other than the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, and it is kicking off the new academic year with 12 fewer employees, thanks to a series of layoffs and budget cuts to the tune of a few million dollars. But that’s not all that got cut. Here are some additional details from U-T San Diego:

Thomas Guernsey, who took over [from Rudy Hasl] as dean of the school on July 1, said Thursday that some adjunct faculty and other staff members were laid off. Fourteen classes that had low enrollment or were highly specialized were eliminated, he said.

Lori Wulfemeyer, head of communications at the school, said the layoffs leave about 65 full-time employees at the school.

And why, pray tell, did the school have to cut $4.4 million from its 2013-2014 budget? It seems that TJSL optimistically expected to meet its regular enrollment goal of 350 new students, but only 250 have signed up thus far. “There are a number of law schools across the country having to adjust their budgets because of fewer applications coming in, and it finally hit us,” Wulfemeyer said in the school’s defense.

In fairness, at least TJSL is being upfront about the reasons behind its layoffs and class cuts. While most law schools would try to slap some positive PR lipstick on this pig — perhaps by saying that the school voluntarily lowered class size and conducted layoffs so the administration wouldn’t have to raise tuition — TJSL just shrugged its shoulders, put all of its cards on the table, and said, “The recession has basically caught up with law school enrollment.”

If only it were that simple. You see, there’s another reason beside low enrollment that the law school had to lay off adjunct faculty and staff and reduce its class offerings. Much like its graduates, the school is operating under massive debt:

Besides the challenge of meeting day-to-day expenses, the school is paying for an eight-story, 305,000-square-foot building it opened in downtown San Diego in 2011. The project put the school $133 million in debt.

Guernsey said the recent cutbacks will help the school continue to pay down the debt on schedule.

A law school that’s fighting a lawsuit over its employment statistics — one that is likely to soon be certified as a class action case — decided to expand its real estate offerings, thereby putting itself into debt, during the height of the worst job market for recent law school graduates in decades. Yikes. It seems like the administration makes as discerning decisions as the members of its student body.

Good luck to Thomas Jefferson as it tries to dig its way out from under its mountain of debt and fill its empty seats, and our condolences to the staff and adjunct faculty members who lost their jobs. Look on the bright side: you don’t have to work for one of the most maligned law schools in the nation anymore.

Jefferson Law School Lays Off 12 Workers to Save $4.4M [U-T San Diego]

Earlier: A Law School’s Possible Purge Of Its Junior Faculty Ranks
Law School: Slashing Class Size, Keeping Tuition High

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