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Friday, December 05, 2014

LSAC numbers, law school closings, and macabre wagers

Al Brophy reports that law school applications are down almost 10 percent from last year's numbers, bringing the anticipated number of applicants to under 50,000 for the year.  That would be about 5,000 fewer than last year.  Over at Slate's Moneybox, Jordan Weissman has announced a bet with Berkeley's Steven Davidoff Solomon that at least one ABA-accredited law school will close in the next four years.  He's encouraging side wagers.  (I used the word "macabre" in the title because the bet involves the "death" of a law school.)

So I'm wondering, to the extent that folks are willing to talk about it, what the buzz is on law school closings around the country.  If you work at or attend a law school, are there any rumors of closure?  Is it a faint rumor, discussed obliquely, or are there actual conversations about staving it off?  Who is bringing it up -- other faculty, deans, the university or board?  If you are an entry level candidate, is it something you are considering in your search?  Please -- no mention of a specific school unless you are willing to put your name down.

Posted by Matt Bodie on December 5, 2014 at 11:25 AM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


The question is how many law schools ought to close (10? 20? 50?) and whether the eventual resulting "Truth and Reconciliation Commissions" will apportion blame where it deserves to be, even if those culpable cannot be punished as they so richly deserve.

Posted by: LawObserver | Dec 17, 2014 6:00:59 PM

I worked at a school until a few years ago where we (the faculty) knew essentially nothing about the finances of the institution. The dean kept us in the dark. It was frightening because it seemed like layoffs would come out of nowhere. I'm surprised that people on this thread even know what's going on.

Posted by: anon | Dec 6, 2014 11:14:30 PM

I've heard from reliable sources that a couple of schools have laid off tenure-track faculty and at least one school has pushed out a few tenured faculty with buyouts that were presented in a "take this or else" fashion.

Posted by: anonprof | Dec 6, 2014 12:19:13 PM

This is definitely a provocative post and one where I am interested in people's comments. That said, asking people to sign their names if they are going to mention specific schools seems crazy to me. Who - and especially, what faculty member - is going to say the equivalent of "my school is having huge problems" or "my school isn't having problems, but the private school across the street is." No real information is going to come with this requirement in place (though I do understand your motive Matt.)

Posted by: juniorlawprof | Dec 5, 2014 10:23:22 PM

One school that might have trouble is this one: http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1194883.

Posted by: Anon | Dec 5, 2014 8:00:28 PM

My fourth tier private school is in a similar position to some of the others described above. We have had a hiring and wage freeze for the last three years. Administrative staff have been cut. Senior faculty have been incentivized to leave. Contract faculty have not had their contracts renewed. Research stipends have been cut and travel budgets are basically gone. But we are not in danger of closing our doors. If enrollment were to drop another 30 or 40 percent all bets would be off. But I don't think that is particularly likely. As long as things only get a bit worse we will survive.

Posted by: Me | Dec 5, 2014 6:42:13 PM

I doubt you are going to get people to mention their own schools, or even other schools, with their names attached to the comment. That is the sort of comment that could get you blacklisted at your school, even if the comment is completely true.

My private law school has been in the red with the main university for over two years, after being very much in the black for a long while. We have had "voluntary" senior faculty buyouts, no new hires other than adjuncts in three years, and frozen salaries. We have kept our research stipends. I would consider lateraling to a more stable school, if given the opportunity.

Posted by: anon3 | Dec 5, 2014 3:07:42 PM

Very interesting. I've written before about the odds that some schools will close w/i five years. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2038409

Posted by: Nancy Rapoport | Dec 5, 2014 12:23:10 PM

My private law school is being carried by the university. We'll see how long that lasts. Summer research money has been cut, no new faculty lines but more contract-status faculty, cuts through attrition, older faculty taking phased buyouts, severe cuts to administrative staff, shrinking class sizes -- in short, what I understand to be widely experienced pain.

Posted by: anon | Dec 5, 2014 12:12:07 PM

I am an entry level candidate and it's a huge consideration - I have some callbacks, and I'm 100% confident that none of the schools I'm interviewing will close within 4 years, but long term financial stability is a massive part of how I personally "rank" the options. I'm looking at what other schools are in the area, who they're competing with for applicants and for placements, etc.

Posted by: anon | Dec 5, 2014 12:02:17 PM

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