The Winter Of Our Discontent: National Jurist Publishes List Of Law Schools With More Than Thirty Percent Drop In Enrollments

ist2_141437_arrow_graph_down_rev_mediumFor 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%

14 thoughts on “The Winter Of Our Discontent: National Jurist Publishes List Of Law Schools With More Than Thirty Percent Drop In Enrollments”

  1. Rich said: “St Louis is hardly the medical center of the Midwest…try Cleveland or Chicago.”

    If you would have said just Chicago, then I would’ve agreed with you. Cleveland??? Let’s do a comparison of all 3, based on data from the US News and World Report, Carnagie Research Classification, and Newsweek data.

    1.All three cities have hospitals ranked in the top 10 (best hospitals).
    2.Only 2 cities (Chicago) and (St. Louis) have medical schools ranked in the top 10, and at least 2 medical schools ranked in the top 50. Cleveland has one ranked in the top 25.
    3. St. Louis has the #1 health law program in the country.
    4. All 3 cities have colleges classified as Research Level 1 institutions: Chicago (2), St. Louis (1.5-Saint Louis University has been fluctuating between the 1 and 2 level; hence, the .5 given to them), and Cleveland (1).
    5. The majority of St. Louis’ workforce is in healthcare, unlike Chicago and Cleveland.
    6. Only 2 cities (Cleveland and St. Louis) are on pace to experience a major surge in employment from the healthcare industry.
    7. Only 2 cities (Chicago and St. Louis) have at least 2 universities with endowments at or above the $billion threshold.

    Although I do respect’s Cleveland’s Medical Complex, I wouldn’t put them over St. Louis.

  2. St Louis is hardly the medical center of the Midwest…try Cleveland or Chicago. Speaking of Cleveland, CWRU has struggled to really establish its premium over Cleveland State for years. A scandal doesn’t help.

    25 schools seems like an arbitrary number. I’ll bet there are still more schools that are just a few percentage points below Iowa and some of them with “name brands” pedigrees. I’m guessing that despite the proliferation of rightwing pseudo non-profitss and thinktanks (aka position paper mills), an explicitly conservative law school doesn’t necessarily payoff. A BA in history or poli sci and an Ayn Rand conversion is probably all one needs to work in those places, rather than a law degree..

  3. Hopefully, if the trend continues, it will lead to a reduction in the number of lower tier law schools, and by lower tier I mean those which provide a lower, sometimes, I believe, wholly inadequate, quality of legal education. That will strengthen the legal profession. Unfortunately, lower numbers of applications could cause the better schools, for economic reasons, to reach down and accept applicants that were rejected in years past. That may weaken the legal profession.

  4. I think it was inevitable to see a large decline in enrollment when jobs have been hard to come by and the student debt is so extensive.

  5. The old joke is that there are more law students than there are lawyers. (Maybe not the case anymore?) I see in other professions how the numbers of those practicing their profession are getting older and older while the student population is also falling. I never expected this to happen with law students, but I suppose there could be a connection between those getting into the study of law and the rest of the population that more fervently quotes the Bard, demanding to “Kill all the lawyers!” (Never mind that the quote is always taken completely out of context.)

    There was a story on NPR this morning about younger finance students who are shunning Wall Street for just that reason. Millennials are looking for at least the perception that their job means something, adds something to the world good. Even if it only FEELS like it does, that’s enough. Perhaps this same phenomenon is hitting the idea of practicing law. Just a thought.

    Here is the NPR Story:

  6. Some of those are surprising, like GMU. But since the market has spoke, who at GMU could disagree?

  7. I like Professor Turley, but I think calling law school a “buyer’s market” is a bit misleading. Sure, it is easier to get into law school now that applications are down, but usually when demand drops, so does the price. Many schools are instead raising tuition to make up for smaller class sizes, because they have less revenue coming in but can’t easily reduce faculty costs (tenure, contracts, etc.). My tuition at GW has gone up about 9 percent since I enrolled in 2011 – not exactly a buyer’s market.

    I don’t regret going to law school, but the time and costs are high and shouldn’t be dismissed.

  8. With all due respect, and I really do mean that, I’d like to suggest that without America’s “Best and Brightest” we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in. They have marched us into an ethical crisis extending to financial crisis, constitutional crisis, healthcare crisis, energy crisis, immigration crisis et all. I have no doubt you are correct about the need for a low end “hair cut”, but I’d like that a bleach bath followed by a trim for the elite higher education institutions followed by a trim would also be a top priority.

  9. Saint Louis University Law School has the #1 Health Law program in the country, and it’s located in the medical center of the midwest. Interesting….

  10. Is this a market correction due to high levels of enrollment in years past, and the enrollments are now at a more moderate level?

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