Tuition Increases

Hot on the heels of the news that administrations of the LSAT are down 16% from last year, we now know that the number of students applying to law school has also declined. But just how bad are the numbers? Let’s just say that applicants and applications for this cycle have “dropped precipitously.”

It would seem that people have finally gotten the message that going to law school won’t necessarily guarantee financial success, much less a job as a lawyer. These days, prospective law students are more in tune with reality, and they obviously don’t like the pictures of law school doom and gloom that have been displayed prominently in the mainstream media.

But that doesn’t mean that people are going to stop applying to law school, or even that they should. So, for these prospective law students, does news of fewer applicants mean that tuition prices will drop, too?

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* Obamacare’s individual mandate may be in jeopardy, and it’s all because of that stupid broccoli debate. No, Scalia, as delicious as it is, not everyone would have to buy broccoli. [New York Times]

* Biglaw firms aren’t going away, but thanks to the recent onslaught of partner defections to small law firms, their high hourly rates might soon be going the way of the dodo. [Corporate Counsel]

* The “good” news: Northwestern Law will be limiting its tuition hike to the rate of inflation. The bad news: next year, it will cost $53,168 to attend. I officially don’t want to live on this planet anymore. [National Law Journal]

* A Littler Mendelson partner is recovering from a stabbing that occurred during a home invasion. On the bright side, at least he’s not a partner at Dewey — that’s a fate worse than being stabbed these days. [Am Law Daily]

* Law school applicants are dropping like flies, but some law schools were able to attract record numbers of students. UVA Law must have some real expertise in recruiting collar poppers. [The Short List / U.S. News]

* “I have a suggestion for you; next time, keep your [expletive] legs closed.” O Canada, that’s the basis of one crazy class action suit, eh? Dudley Do-Right would never treat a female Mountie like that. [Globe and Mail]

... to take a survey.

Yesterday, David Lat took a detailed look at the National Law Journal’s newly released list of “go-to” law schools — the ones placing the highest percentage of their 2011 graduates in Biglaw. Of course congratulations are due to Penn and Northwestern and the other schools whose graduates are still landing associate positions. But the real news is how seriously discouraging the NLJ data is. We all know the legal job market is tough, yet Bruce MacEwen’s observation that 85% of law schools give students a worse than 10% chance of getting a job in Biglaw still manages to startle.

Our ongoing ATL School & Firm Insider Survey (take it here!), asks current law students, among other things, “What do you expect to do after you graduate?” A whopping 71% tell us that they expect to work for a firm. (This percentage was consistent across class years.) That this proportion is so high, and so at odds with the NLJ findings, can mean some combination of two things:

  • The ATL student readership skews heavily toward that minority of students who will actually snag Biglaw gigs.
  • Many (if not most) expectations of law firm employment will be dashed against the reality of a contracting job market. In other words, a majority of students think they are in the fortunate minority

After the jump, we’ll look at how wide the gap between student expectation and market reality is, even at the “go-to” schools:

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Which law school helped her land a fabulous Biglaw job?

The general economy started to turn around last year, but the legal job market remains sluggish. In 2011, many top law schools sent fewer graduates into first-year associate jobs at the nation’s largest 250 law firms than they did in 2010. That’s the bottom-line finding of the National Law Journal’s annual survey of which schools the NLJ 250 firms relied on most heavily when filling first-year associate classes.

The results of the survey should be interesting to current law students and law firm attorneys. And they’re of possible practical import to prospective law students who are now choosing between law schools (or deciding whether to go to law school at all, based on a cost-benefit analysis that pits tuition and student loans against post-graduate job prospects).

So let’s look at the top 10 law schools, ranked by the percentage of their 2011 juris doctor graduates who landed jobs at NLJ 250 firms (i.e., “Biglaw”)….

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Law school leaders only care about the Benjamins.

Now comes the time when law schools tell students that the 2012-2013 academic year will cost more than the 2011-2012 academic year, even though the schools will be providing no additional professional help to struggling graduates.

Some law schools will blame it on state budget cuts to education. Other schools will blame it on weak fundraising. Still others will give you a song and dance about how the increases are necessary to hire top professorial talent, and then there will be some schools who offer the unsaid, “we’re doing it because we can and you’ll just borrow more money to pay us.”

We don’t track every tuition hike, because just about every law school raises tuition every year for one reason or another. But when a law school is brazen enough to raise tuition by a higher rate than other institutions at the university — and expects law students to be too stupid to notice how they’re getting taken advantage of — we tend to notice…

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* Merry Christmas! House Republicans will get one less lump of coal in their stockings this year after accepting a two-month extension of unemployment benefits and payroll tax cuts. [New York Times]

* Another birther lawsuit has been thrown out, but Orly Taitz won’t be stopped. She’s like the Energizer Bunny of questionable litigation. She’ll keep appealing, and appealing, and appealing… [Los Angeles Times]

* John Edwards is trying to delay his criminal trial, claiming to have a mystery medical diagnosis. What kind of disease does karma hand you for cheating on your sick wife? [New York Daily News]

* Nora Demleitner will be will be stepping in as the new dean of Washington and Lee University School of Law. Hofstra Law, you M.A.D.? [National Law Journal]

* Is the American Bar Association really driving up the cost of law school tuition, or is it the law schools themselves? Here are some graphs that might surprise you. [Am Law Daily]

Today there’s good news and bad news coming out of Boalt Hall (aka Berkeley Law aka WGWAG School of Law).

Let’s start with the bad news. The bad news is that the Regents, who run the show for the University of California (UC) system, approved an increase in system-wide student fees for the coming year. It’s for a shade over $1,000 — $1,068, to be precise.

The good news: Berkeley Law, at the behest of Dean Christopher Edley Jr., is effectively reversing the fee hike for its students. Boalt Hall is issuing an immediate “scholarship” to each student, in the exact amount of the fee increase.

Let’s take a look at Dean Edley’s email — which explains the situation, and has a cute and clever closing — and explore what might be motivating the administration….

UPDATE (7/22/11): Also note the update at the end of this post regarding UCLA School of Law. (We have added the memo from Dean Rachel Moran.)

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Do you know an easy way for moderately priced public law schools to make even more money? Charge more for tuition. Do you know an easy justification for jacking up tuition rates? Say that you are moving to a “private funding model” while you bemoan the lack of public support for your institution.

After that, it’s all profit baby!

The big news in the law school hot stove league is that another major public law school is toying with moving to a private funding model. The logic for eschewing public funds for an increase in private dollars is, as always, disingenuous. But hey, as long as the law school keeps paying its tithe to the university, few will object to increased gouging of prospective law students…

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What your law school dean does when alone at the office.

I, for one, do not think that a person’s salary can or should be used as a proxy for determining whether or not that person is committed to any particular cause. I don’t think people who fight for the poor need be poor themselves. I don’t think people who work for the state should be relegated to the kind of salaries that will convince the best and brightest to never work for the state. I just don’t think a person’s salary is all that indicative of a person’s commitment to doing the right thing.

That said, it doesn’t look good to be putting other people in financial distress while you enjoy a large paycheck, especially when you are in a position of public trust. When you are in a leadership position at a public university, you are expected to be looking out for your students, not just your own bank account.

The salaries of deans from public law schools don’t prove that these people are placing themselves above the needs of their students. They don’t really reflect anything — other than the going rate for a law school dean, in a competitive market for talent. But man, they don’t look good. In fairness, they look awful, given that we’re living in a world where many of these deans are raising tuition on students who for the most part won’t even be able to dream of making the kind of money these deans pull down.

So take a look, but try to remember that if you were in the deans’ shoes, you’d act no differently. You’d take every penny that was offered to you…

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You can’t call it a trend just yet, but the University of New Hampshire School of Law has joined Maryland Law and Miami Law in the fight to keep law school tuition down during a still-recovering economy. The school reports it will not be raising tuition for the 2011-2012 academic year.

It’s a sad state of affairs when a law school holding the line on tuition is breaking news. But with nearly every other law school rushing to bilk students who will pay anything for a legal education (law schools at Stanford, Arizona State, and Minnesota spring to mind), it’s nice to see at least a couple of schools that regard their students as something more than profit centers.

Maryland announced its tuition freeze in December. The National Law Journal reports that Miami recently announced it would be maintaining a tuition freeze already in place. Now UNH Law is joining their ranks. There’s still plenty of room on this bandwagon if your law school would like to take a brief break from molesting your financial future.

Not that UNH Law is cheap, especially for a third-tier law school. But this tuition freeze is another indication that UNH is at least trying to think about legal education in a somewhat realistic way…

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