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Monday, February 11, 2013
Law Schools Searching for Opportunity in Crisis
I've been writing for some time now about the spectacular downfall of the law schools in the U.S. in recent years. As the months roll on and new admissions data is released, the picture continues to get bleaker.
Just a few of the striking statistics from a recent New York Times article:
- Law School applications for the 2013-2014 academic year are down 20% from last year, and nearly 40% from 2010;
- Since 2004, the number of applicants has dropped by nearly half;
- The number of graduating students at the end of this year is expected to be about 38,000-the lowest since 1977, when there were a dozen fewer schools.
Some schools have already begun layoffs and cutbacks. Experts predict that as many as ten major schools may simply close over the coming decade.
The primary reason for the downturn is job prospects. In 2011, just 55% of law school graduates had found work (requiring passage of a bar exam) within nine months of graduation. A close second is the spiraling costs of tuition, which easily hits six figures at some of the private institutions. If debt payoff was onerous in the past, it is literally impossible for an un or under-employed law graduate.
The fracturing of the system has forced schools to start asking some of the important questions. How can they continue to attract students? How can they provide educations that are more aligned with real-world practice? How can they foster respect for the many strata of graduates, from those who aspire to Supreme Court clerkships to those who may become small market solo practitioners?
Certainly, the silver lining to the alarming numbers is the soul searching. Until it was broken, no one bothered trying to fix it. Now law schools- and the profession at large-have no other choice.
For a comprehensive look at the reasons behind the fall: NY Times
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