Data from the American Bar Association shows that law school enrollment dropped 11 percent last year and has dropped 23 percent since 2010. The UNH School of Law has not been immune to the decrease either, according to NHPR.
“I don’t think anyone saw it coming. I don’t think anyone quite knows whether it’s over,” dean John Broderick said.
Admissions at the school are at the lowest level in a decade and last year the law school received half the applications it did in the previous two years.
“Whether you think it’s a good idea or you don’t, it’s reality,” Broderick says. “Even I live on an iPad. So the world is moving on. And American legal education and American higher education needs to the accept that and adapt.”
The school plans to launch its International Criminal Law and Justice online program later this year.
“We will have within a year’s time, an online master’s degree in intellectual property. And that can be totally where you are. Or it can be where you are and half of it will be here in residence.”
Jaye Rancourt is the president of the New Hampshire Bar Association. Rancourt said that online learning is going to have a larger part in legal education because schools are adapting to the changing market for students.
“I would hate to see a movement of more younger lawyers coming out of law school relying even more on technology and less on face-to-face contact,” Rancourt said.
Law schools could also be running into accreditation issues, which cause them to be held back.
“Under our rules, a law school may give students up to 12 units of credit for fully online courses toward the Juris doctorate. And the standards, our standards require a minimum of 83 credits to graduate,” said Barry Currier. Currier is the managing director of accreditation and legal education for the American Bar Association.
Currier noted that the ABA could approve a plan that increases the max number of credits earned online towards a law degree to 15.
“The scrutiny that distance learning gets, not only from our accreditation process, but just in general, is the understandable, first-level reaction, first wave reaction to innovation.”
Eric Janus is the Dean of William Mitchell College of Law. Janus said that things need to change as the times change.
“We need that innovation to meet the challenges of the next century. Law practice isn’t going to stay the same, legal education cannot stay the same,” Janus said.
In terms of why admissions have decreased, Rancourt said, “It was kind of the perfect storm. A lot of lawyers coming out of law school. Law firms not hiring. People not retiring from the practice of law.”
Check out which law firms are hiring on Lawcrossing.com