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Law Schools Opening Across Country Despite Logjam of Lawyers

Despite law school application numbers hitting the lowest numbers in the past decade, universities across the country continue to open new law schools, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In Fort Wayne, Indiana Tech will open a law school in the fall, making it the fifth in the state. The University of North Texas will open a law school in Dallas in 2014 and it will be just around the corner from Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law. The school will also be less than an hour from the law school Texas A&M is buying from Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth.

In 2012, law school applications fell to 68,000, a decrease from 13 percent compared to 2011. In 2004, the decade saw a peak of 100,000. The numbers in 2012 are a 30 percent decrease from 2004, according to data from the Law School Admission Council. As of Friday, 30,000 people applied to law schools in the United States. This amounts to a 20 percent decrease from one year prior and the lowest amount in the past decade to submit applications by the middle of January.

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The associate dean for academic affairs at UNT Dallas College of Law, Ellen S. Pryor, said that her school hopes to provide local students with an affordable legal education that is also hands-on.

“I know applications are down,” Pryor said, but “the fact that nationwide numbers are down doesn’t dishearten us from thinking we’ll get really good students and fulfill our mission.”

Despite all of the law schools springing up across the country, law graduates are still struggling to find jobs nine months after graduation. To go along with this, law schools are charging higher and higher rates for legal education.

“It seems like the worst possible time to open a new law school,” said Brian Z. Tamanaha, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis wrote “Failing Law Schools.”

The associate dean for academic affairs at the new law school at Indiana Tech, André D.P. Cummings, said, “Are we where we’d like to be? Not yet. The truth is that applications are down significantly across the country.”

Stephen Diamond, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law said, “The financial backing they have is presumably looking down the road beyond the downturn.”

From 1950 to 1970, close to 20 schools per decade were accredited by the American Bar Association. In the 1980s and the 1990s, that number dropped to eight per decade. Since 2000, 19 new law schools have received accreditation from the ABA.

“The notion that we need to open more law schools is absolutely crazy,” said Paul Campos, a law professor at the University of Colorado.

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