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Cooley Law School Banks on Nest Egg During Withering Enrollment
Michigan’s Cooley Law School saw explosive growth since it opened its campus in Lansing, the state’s capital. Since then it has opened four other campuses across Michigan, and also one in Florida. But despite the success of their campuses, the Recession of 2008 took its terrible toll on them, as it has on all in the law profession, so that despite their peak enrollment of 2,906 in 2006 at their Lansing campus, they are down to 1,271 as of 2012. Now the school looks at the money its gained from such success as a “nest egg,” to whether the storm of law school meltdown.
“Our model has basically been the grasshopper and the ants from your fables,” said Don LeDuc, Cooley’s president and dean. “We set aside a fair amount of money to weather what we thought the storm would be. Our only concern is how long this lasts.”
It could, perhaps, last indefinitely, with the simple new reality that fewer lawyers are needed in the new market. At least, the idea that students graduating in three to four years will find a revived and eager market might be mere wishful thinking.
Consider what the Coalition of Concern Colleagues has to say, a group of 67 law professors concerned about the legal market. As reported by lsj.com, they have written an open letter to the American Bar Association saying, “The federal government estimates that, at current graduation rates, the economy will create about one new legal job for every two law school graduates over the next decade. Most knowledgeable observers believe that the situation is unlikely to improve even if the economy fully rebounds.”
What this means is that that nest egg might slowly dwindle for the once successful Cooley. With the average percentage of law school grads having full-time, long-term legal jobs at nine months across all law schools at 56 percent, and with Cooley’s graduates at a mere 29 percent, it seems the word against such an investment will keep most away. Though Cooley hasn’t cut any staff, they aren’t filling vacancies either, and they may have to change the requirements on things like the LSAT to bolster enrollment.
“Sooner or later you’ve got to make a choice,” said LeDuc, “Because you need enough revenue to cover what you’re expenses are.”
That would lead to a trajectory of having a lower rated school, perhaps, with graduates doing even worse after graduation, but with the situation being what it is, sometimes necessity dictates our path despite our ideals.