Posted Dec 21, 2012 01:07 pm CST
Enrollment in non-J.D. programs at ABA-approved law schools has increased substantially in the past 12 years, according to preliminary data released Friday by the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.
Schools reported a 52 percent increase in enrollment in non-J.D. programs from 2000 to 2012, and a 39 percent increase in the past seven years alone, from 7,976 students in 2005 to 11,067 in 2012, the figures show.
Those gains partially offset the declines in J.D. enrollments reported over the same time period, according to preliminary estimates released by the section last month. That data showed that first-year enrollment in J.D. programs fell by 8 percent between 2005 and 2012, though it was one percent higher in 2012 than in 2000. Total enrollment in J.D. programs was 11 percent higher in 2012 than in 2000, but fell slightly between 2005 and 2012.
Non-J.D. degree programs are designed for nonlawyers and for students who have already earned a degree in law. An LL.M. degree, for example, allows a law graduate to develop expertise in a particular practice area, such as taxation or health law. An LL.M degree can also provide foreign law graduates with an overview of the American legal system.
Law schools also offer non-J.D. degree programs for nonlawyer professionals who want to learn about basic concepts in the law and about the legal and regulatory environments that apply to their field.
Non-J.D. degree programs do not require ABA approval. But ABA-approved law schools that plan to offer a non-J.D. program are required to show that the program does not interfere with the school’s ability to operate its J.D. program in compliance with the section’s accreditation standards.
Barry Currier, the ABA’s interim consultant on legal education, said in a prepared statement accompanying the release of the figures that law schools are seeing a demand for non-J.D. programs both for lawyers who want to develop expertise through an LL.M and in business and professional communities where knowledge of the relevant law and legal process is valuable. “And, as the demand for J.D. degrees slackens, schools are exploring other ways to broaden their revenue base,” he added.
The preliminary enrollment data comes from the questionnaires that all ABA-approved law schools must complete annually. Further data, including the verified and exact number of enrolled students, undergraduate grade point averages and LSAT scores by school, will be released next spring.