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Monday, September 16, 2013
Law Schools Accepting Fewer Students
The down turn in the legal job market, and its ripple effect on law school enrollment is not a new story. For the past several years, schools have watched helplessly as the number of LSAT takers and law school applicants have steadily declined.
Not surprisingly, law schools are responding by accepting fewer students. But why? What difference does it make to schools if their graduates can't find jobs? After all, law school is a business venture, and the greater the number of tuition checks, the better the bottom line.
A recent LA Times article quotes Dean Victor Gold of the Loyola School of Law in Southwestern Los Angeles. He refers to the school's "moral obligation" not to knowingly drain tuition money from law students in a bleak job market. But even Gold acknowledges that his school's decision to accept 5% fewer students in the 2013-2014 academic year also had to do with keeping up appearances.
Law students pick their schools based largely on national rank. A major metric considered by the ranking system is the number of graduates who are actually employed following graduation.
So it becomes a cost-benefit analysis for the law schools. Do you lose the tuition check today by turning away students, or do you lose it in the long run when your school drops in the rankings? At Loyola, the drop in enrollment of 20 students equals a loss of approximately $1 million. But last year, the school also dropped 17 places in the US News & World Report's rankings (from 51 to 68).
The net effect for law students is greater competition. Not only are there fewer available spaces, but there is also a greater incentive for law schools to matriculate students who are more likely to find work after graduation. Good for the overall market, but a tough pill to swallow for hopeful lawyers.
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