In the world of law schools, every day is sort of like Black Friday.
That is the (slightly exaggerated) claim Slate is making based on the recent New York Times article. Exaggerated or not, an interesting point is being made. Programs are marking down the prices of their education. Tuition is dropping (or at least freezing) and schools are doing what they can to provide incentives in the form of scholarships. The overarching point Slate makes is in the game of supply and demand, there could be some casualties based on the decreasing demand for law schools. Simply put, the supply might prove too much.
Western Michigan University’s Cooley School of Law has already closed one of its four campuses. And as Professor Jerry Organ of St. Thomas School of Law has pointed out, if history does indeed repeat itself, law schools should be seriously concerned.
Organ compares the potential demise to law schools to the demise of dental schools. Dental school enrollment peaked in 1979 but by the mid ‘80s had dropped enrollments by about a third. Compare that to law schools, where enrollment dropped by 24% from 2010-2013 — with more expected. With dental schools, the reasons for the decrease was improved dental health from fluoridation, reductions in federal funding, high tuition costs, and debt loads. Sound familiar?
Six private institutions shut down, two of which were Emory University and Georgetown University’s dental schools. Not exactly the Cooley’s of the dental school world. Six seems like a small enough number until you consider there were 60 dental schools at the time. A similar 10% decrease would mean 20 law schools have to go.
Some of the dental schools shut down because of financial pressures. Others shut down from fears of not being able to continue to attract the same level of talent they previously had. Regardless, the picture is eerily similar to the current state of legal education. Black Friday may be coming soon to law schools.
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