For the last two years, I have been telling friends that there is no better time for their children to go to law school. It is a buyer’s market for applicants with enrollments down an average of ten percent. George Washington is faring comparatively well due to its ranking and location. This downturn is hitting lower tiered law schools the worst. As I have said before, the legal field could do with a hair cut at the lowest end of schools. There are a growing number of for-profit schools with highly questionable curriculums and even more questionable bar passage and employment rates. Some are listed among the schools with the highest debts for students. National Jurist has now published the 18 schools hit the hardest with this downturn in enrollments.
Some on the list were on the earlier list of schools with the greatest debt. Those include New York Law School with the fourth highest decline (38.7%) and Pace with a 29 percent decline.
Just for the record, I would note that I do not share the dire accounts of the future of law or the need to cheapen legal education with two-year factory programs. This looks like a cycle tied to the economy and other factors. The greater problem is the proliferation of low-quality law schools across the country that are taking money from gullible students and parents.
The two schools with the biggest drops are the University of La Verne, 66.2 percent, and Cooley Law School, 40.6 percent. That is dire. Cooley Law School has been experiencing seriously bad press and displaying even worse decision-making at the law school of late. La Verne lost its ABA accreditation in 2011 and has only secured ABA provisional approval. Quite frankly, La Verne is the type of law school that concerns me about quality and value. However, it is not the lowest schools (or most deserving of insolvency) that are likely to be eliminated.
I am most concerned about good schools like Vermont Law School, which are struggling to survive. Vermont has a wonderful faculty and student body committed to environmental law. Its collapse would represent a serious blow to the field and a serious loss to the legal profession. Vermont has experienced an over 30 percent drop. University of Iowa is in better shape as a state school, but it is worrisome since Iowa remains an outstanding school with a gifted faculty. George Mason is also a surprise. It has long been one of the hottest law schools. There has long been a question of how long long the school could maintain its niche reputation as a conservative law school while trying to break into the top national rankings. This will not help in such a transition.
On the list is Case Western which continues to struggle with a scandal of its dean Larry Mitchell, who is being sued for alleged sexual misconduct.
Here are the 18 schools with enrollment declines above 35 percent:
University of La Verne -66.2%
Cooley Law School -40.6%
Catholic University -39.5%
New York Law School -38.7%
University of Dayton -38.5%
Pacific McGeorge School of Law -38.4%
Widener University – Harrisburg -36.9%
University of New Hampshire -34.8%
Seton Hall University -34.7%
Liberty University -33.9%
Western New England University -33.3%
Case Western University -32.7%
Hamline University -32.7%
Ave Maria School of Law -31.8%
Appalachian School of Law -31.0%
Widener University – Delaware -30.5%
Vermont Law School -30.5%
Saint Louis University -30.2%
Duquesne University -29.7%
Pace University -29.3%
University of Tulsa -29.3%
Quinnipiac University -28.9%
George Mason University -28.9%
California Western School of Law -28.1%
University of Iowa -28.0%