Oregon is famous for a lot: huge coniferous trees in never-ending temperate rain forests; waterfalls; hipsters; craft beer. All those things are good. But even Oregon cannot escape the decline in law students. Sorry, Oregon. All three Oregon law schools (University of Oregon, Willamette University, and Lewis and Clark College) have reported enrollment declines over the past two to four years ranging from 13 to 30%.
The University of Oregon’s total enrollment this fall is 376, down from a peak of 576 in 2010. Willamette has dropped from 429 to 341 and Lewis and Clark is at 609 after peaking at 735 in 2010. The drops beg the question: Is this a fad we can share a drink and a good laugh over in about five years? Or is this a trend that will continue to lead to a drastic shift in legal education and the law profession? Or somewhere in between?
Regardless, this trend or fad or whatever is not coming and potentially going without hits. The most recent hit? The Lewis and Clark Law School legal clinic in downtown Portland. As of now, on December 31 the doors will close. New Lewis and Clark Dean Jennifer Johnson cites budget discrepancies from decreased enrollment as the main reason for the closure.
This hit has at least two sizeable implications. First, law students at Lewis and Clark will have one less option for getting real-life practice. This is a space where law students can conduct real-life investigations, communicate with clients, and draft pertinent documents. Second, this clinic largely serves low-income clients. It has been serving clients who largely cannot afford legal service but desperately need it, the quintessential client every starry-eyed idealist goes into law school to help.
In the future, Johnson says the school will look for opportunities to create types of clinics that aren’t dependent on donations and tuition dollars. They will be profit-driven and might not be able to help low-income clients at no cost like the current clinic.
Source: Oregon Live
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