Ed. note: This is the latest post in our series of ATL infographics — visual representations of our own proprietary data, relevant third-party data, “anecdata,” or just plain jokes.
We know that law school applications are down, but how are the rest of the numbers looking for the class of 2016? Which schools experienced the most dramatic shrinkage in class size? How have LSAT scores and GPAs changed for the T14 vs. the T100? Which schools defied the downward spiral and actually experienced an increase in class size?
This law school has a healthy approach to slimming down.
Layoffs continue to march through law firms. We reported yet another layoff story earlier today.
But now we have some happy news to share, regarding potential layoffs that were averted. A law school that was contemplating junior-faculty layoffs fortunately won’t have to go through with the cuts it had been contemplating.
Which law school achieved this feat? And what lessons might it have to offer to other law schools that are attempting to rightsize themselves in this challenging environment for legal education?
Ed. note: Frank H. Wu is the Chancellor and Dean of the University of California Hastings College of the Law. He’s currently sharing some of his thoughts about legal education and other topics here on Above the Law.
I was recently befuddled about some information I had been given. That happens. I was inspired by my own momentary confusion to write this blog post. It made me realize how much raw data has to be sorted through to achieve transparency.
Perhaps the most important aspect of training in argumentation, which constitutes the bulk of the first year of law school, is learning how to frame issues. A skilled advocate comes to understand early on that the party who is able to define the question to be asked has already determined the answer that will be given. It is more than mere semantics.
Laypeople tend to regard lawyers as sophists, because they — the lawyers — are so concerned about accuracy and precision. Lawyers may even distinguish between “accuracy” and “precision.” Lawyers do not assume that everyone has exactly the same concepts in mind even if they are participating in a single conversation together, because the essential “meeting of the minds” is elusive. They also appreciate the consequences of sloppiness.
In a way, I think the schools ranked just below the top schools have felt the decline in law school applications the most. Schools ranked in the top 50, but not the top 15, foolishly charge comparable rates to the very best institutions, but they can’t provide the same kind of employment outcome success as the very top schools. Students either go to the top schools that maybe they couldn’t have gotten into in a more competitive pool of applicants, or they go to get significant cost savings (and maybe a full scholarship) at less prestigious, local schools.
You’d think that the very bottom schools would be hurt the most by the decline in applications, but the Cooley model shows us that the people who don’t do well on tests but are desperate to go to law school are still applying, while there appears to be a brain drain in terms of the most qualified applicants.
The choice for law deans just outside the top tier seems to be to cut class size or massively lower admissions standards. I’d argue that there’s a third option: deans could actually compete on price and start charging a reasonable tuition for legal education. But that option might actually start to solve the problem, and right now deans think that prospective law students not acting like idiots is a temporary condition that they just have to ride out.
Earlier this month, we talked about George Washington’s decision to lower admission standards in order to keep class size high. Today we’ve got a similarly ranked school that has evidently decided to go in the opposite direction — in a big way….
As fewer people apply to law school, deans have basically two options: they can shrink the size of the entering class, which reduces tuition revenue, or they can keep the size of the entering class the same, which results in credential dilution — a student body with lower LSAT scores and GPAs. Credential dilution can lead to a tumble in the closely watched U.S. News rankings, which can further reduce applications, setting in motion a vicious cycle.
So far, most schools seem to have opted for shrinkage. Most deans would prefer to be able to claim that they are taking a “stand for quality,” as Dean Patrick Hobbs of Seton Hall recently stated.
Interestingly enough, however, one top law school seems to be going in the other direction. It’s actually increasing the size of its incoming class over last year, even if doing so might lead to credential dilution….
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….
We’ve talked extensively about the decline in law school applications. Law schools are now entering a time of consequences. Schools at the very top are going to do fine. Shockingly, schools at the very bottom are probably also okay, as there is always somebody who has no business going to law school who still wants to go.
But schools in the great middle — from just outside the top tier to anybody trying to maintain a bare minimum of standards — are feeling the crunch.
Something has to give. And one law school on the West Coast has decided that people should be the first to go. First, the school fired staff. Now, the school is slashing class size. But I’ll note that the school does not seem to be slashing salaries or cutting tuition. Apparently, people are easier to cut than budgets….
Untenured law professors are not protected from pink slips.
As law school applications continue to decline, law schools must make hard choices. A law school can maintain the size of its entering class — and the revenue stream generated by those students — but at the cost of lowering its admissions standards. Or a law school can shrink the size of its entering class, accepting the decline in revenue to maintain the caliber of its student body, and make up for the lost revenue by cutting costs.
In my view, the second approach is superior. As the legal job market continues to shrink, with even top law firms conducting large-scale layoffs, it makes sense for law schools to produce fewer graduates. The legal profession is “right-sizing,” and law schools should follow suit.
But even if the second approach is better than the first, it’s not without pain. Last week, we heard reports of one law school basically axing its entire junior faculty. All of the untenured professors received notice that their contracts might not be renewed for the 2014-2015 academic year. Ouch.
As is so often the case, though, there’s more to this story than meets the eye….
Approximately three fourths of 201 ABA-approved law schools experienced declines in first-year enrollment. Ninety law schools reported declines exceeding 10 percent from last year, while fewer than 10 had increases of 10 percent or more.
So, yeah, law school enrollment is down at law schools across the country. Top Law Schools has been crowdsourcing the class sizes of some notable law schools, and Tax Prof Blog put that into a helpful chart showing the decrease in matriculation, year-over-year, for about 40 law schools.
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
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