Remember that Rocky movie? It doesn’t matter which one. Remember the part when Rocky Balboa keeps getting hit and knocked down? There are many. But despite the number of punches he absorbs, Rocky says in the final movie (Rocky 15?), “It ain’t how hard you hit. It’s how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. It’s about how much you can take and keep moving forward.”
Well, legal education is like Rocky. Law schools took another hit this week with the American Bar Association announcing another drop in 1L enrollment and total J.D. enrollment. There are now 37,924 law students in the 204 ABA-accredited schools. That is a 30% decline from the peak year of 2010 when 52,488 students were seeking a J.D. It is the lowest number since 1973. In that year, there were 53 less ABA-accredited schools.
In a New York Times article, Prof. Paul Campos from the University of Colorado School of Law calls the announcement a “watershed moment.” The punches have been thrown for a while now. Soaring tuition costs and student debt. Plummeting job placements. And the dichotomy of an education system unwilling to change with stagnant wages and deteriorating opportunities.
Services that used to be done by lawyers are increasingly automated. Outsourcing of basic legal work is happening. And there has been little change by law schools across the county. Some have conducted (or at least considered) tuition reductions and freezes. Others have updated or adapted curriculum to create practice-ready graduates. Yet enrollment continues to decline and recent graduates are having a tough time finding work.
And so the questions remain. How hard is the legal education system going to be hit? How much can the legal education system handle? When are law schools going to pick themselves up and start throwing some punches of their own? It’s probably about time, though The K.O. might be coming for a few of the weaker schools. Remember: Rocky doesn’t always win in the movies.
Source: The New York Times
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