Summary: Case Western Reserve has reached out to 1L students from competing law schools and offered them incentives to transfer.
Despite the increased number of law school applications recently, law schools are still struggling to recruit top students. But one law school has an unconventional method of attracting those academic superstars.
According to Crain’s Cleveland, Case Western Reserve University School of Law is making an active attempt to recruit first-year law students at competing schools.
“It’s a new tactic for Case this year — and a clear sign of the times,” Crain’s Cleveland stated. “Despite optimism in the outlook for the legal field, the fight to draw not only a sizable group of students, but the best of the bunch, is far from over — as a message from Case law school’s associate dean of admissions to potential transfers shows.”
The message Crain’s is describing is an email received by several students at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. In the email, students were told that if they applied for a transfer that they would receive special privileges such as a waiver of the application fee and consideration for a “generous scholarship.”
Jessica Berg and Michael Scharf, Case Law’s co-deans, said that students with high LSAT scores and GPAs who applied to the school in the past were sent the emails and that Case was not targetting specific competing law schools or geographic regions.
A spokesperson from Case told JD Journal that the school was not attempting to poach students from competing schools and that everyone who had previously applied to Case received the follow-up email.
Cleveland-Marshall dean Lee Fisher wrote in an email obtained by Crain’s that if students were considering leaving the school for Case that they should talk with him first.
“Of course, I hope that none of you transfer to Case or to any other law school, but if you are considering transferring for any reason, I have a request,” Fisher said to an email sent to 1L students. “Please give me the opportunity to speak with you before you make any decision.”
After the 2016 Presidential Election, surveys showed that Democrat and Republican students showed an interest in law school, which resulted in increased LSAT exams and law school applications. Despite this “Trump Bump,” enrollment in American law schools is at a 40 year low.
“According to stats from the American Bar Association, total nationwide J.D. enrollment as of fall 2017 stood at 110,156 students. That’s 25% less than the collective number of students in fall 2010, when enrollment last peaked,” Crain’s stated.
The publication reported that Case had 236 students enrolled in 2010; and in 2014, that number dwindled to 136. Berg said that their current target number for students is 130-150, and the school has embraced its smaller class size instead of lowering its admission standards.
This strategy has worked for Case, which currently has a 93% passage rate for first-time bar exam takers.
“We reinvented ourselves as a small college, more experiential,” Scharf said to Crain’s. “We will never go back to the numbers we had in the past by design.”
Updated March 1, 2018 at 8:45 to add Case Western’s statement that they were following up with previous applicants and not actively poaching. The story also updated that Lee Fisher did not speak directly with Crain’s but that his statement was in an email obtained by Crain’s.