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Annual Association of American Law Schools Meeting Held Last Week

The Association of American Law Schools held its annual meeting last week in New York, discussing declining law school enrollment and law school graduates’ struggles to find jobs, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Enrollment for first-year law students in 2013 dropped to numbers that have not been seen since the decade of the 1970s, according to data from the American Bar Association.

Compared to 2012, there was an 11 percent drop in 2012 with just 39,675 students enrolled for their first year of law school.

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“It’s important for us both to recognize that the legal profession has been soft for entry-level lawyers, but also to really affirm that law school is absolutely the right choice for the right student,” Lauren Robel, Provost of Indiana University Bloomington said. Robel is also the previous president of AALS. “I worry that those students are being diverted now into other types of programs when our country needs them to continue to think seriously about law.”

Despite these numbers, not every school in the country is struggling right now with first-year enrollment.

“The employment market differs hugely among law schools,” Leo Martinez said. Martinez is a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law. Martinez is the current president of the AALS.

Martinez noted that students from the University of Kentucky and the University of North Dakota are placing law graduates at strong rates. These graduates are sent to small towns and firms in the regions close to the schools.

“Like many enterprises in this economy, all of us are trying to manage expenses to our revenue,” Martinez said. “At my own school, we are doing it by not replacing faculty who retire, or replacing perhaps one of every two who retire.”

Daniel Rodriguez, the dean of the Northwestern University School of Law, said that times could become tougher for schools that are lower down the list of rankings or for those that do not have the finances needed because they are operating at a smaller university.

“If the law school applications continue to decline, there is no question there will be pressures brought to bear on some of our law schools, and some of our members’ law schools, that will be quite severe and deep,” Rodriguez said. He is also the president-elect of the AALS. “And the choice for them, about whether they can function in that economic climate, will be a difficult one, and it may end up being that some law schools close.”

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