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Data from ABA Shows Major Drop in Law School Enrollment for First-Year Students
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First-year enrollment in 13 law schools across the country dropped by 30 percent or more in a span of 12 months, according to data from the American Bar Association. An added 27 schools reported drops ranging from 20 to 30 percent, according to The National Law Journal. Of the 199 schools accredited by the ABA, 132 reported declines in their first-year law classes. Eight of the schools witnessed no change in new enrollment. Some 62 schools posted gains in first-year enrollment.

The data shows that the New England School of Law suffered the worst drop in enrollment, with just 238 new students enrolled in the fall. This is compared to 450 the previous year, which is good for a 47 percent drop.


Dean John O’Brien said that the decline occurred at such a large level because the school admitted 70 students more than usual.

“The decline in enrollments hit us later than most schools,” O’Brien said. “But we have strategic committees working on a weekly basis to ascertain the future of the school and where we should be with enrollment. They have determined that it would be wise to be a smaller school.”

The school offered professors with 15 years or more at the school a buyout option. Eight of the 21 professors eligible accepted the buyout.

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At Washington and Lee University School of Law, first-year enrollment dropped by 41 percent.

The dean of the school, Nora Demleitner, said, “We usually have about 125 students in the 1L class and in 2012 we had 180. We’ve never had that many students in the building, so this year we wanted to ensure that we could accommodate everyone, given that large class. I don’t think this is a harbinger of things to come.”

The third-largest drop in enrollment for first-year students came at the University of Iowa College of Law. Dean Gail Agrawal sent a letter to the law school community in August.

“With significantly fewer applicants to choose from this year, we were left with a decision: maintain the number of students in the incoming class or maintain the high quality of our student body,” he wrote. “You will not be surprised to learn that we chose to protect the caliber of the class rather than its size.”

Jerome Organ is a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. Organ posted the following on The Legal Whiteboard blog:

“A number of schools have picked profile and made an effort to hold profile or come close to holding profile by absorbing significant declines in first-year enrollment (and the corresponding loss of revenue),” Organ wrote. “By contrast, a number of schools have picked enrollment and made an effort to hold enrollment or come close to holding enrollment (and maintaining revenue) but at the expense of absorbing a significant decline in LSAT profile.”


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