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Law schools react to smallest incoming classes since 1970s; top applicants buck the trend

Posted Jul 7, 2014 7:10 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Law school applications continue to drop this year, spurring a response among law schools hit by the declining enrollments.

Law schools admitted 39,675 first-year students last year, the smallest incoming class since the 1970s.

That number was an 11 percent drop from the prior year and a 24 percent drop in three years, the Boston Globe reports. The trend appears to be continuing; the number of applicants for the first-year class in 2014 has dropped nearly 8 percent from last year, the story says, citing figures from the Law School Admission Council.

Most law schools in Massachusetts responded with measures such as faculty and administrative cuts, faculty buyouts, pay freezes, a tuition freeze, and stepped-up recruiting, the story says.

At New England Law School, where first-year enrollment dropped 40 percent since 2010, the dean, John O’Brien, voluntarily cut his pay by 25 percent. The University of Massachusetts Law School in Dartmouth admitted only 78 first-year students last year, an increase from 71 the prior year.

Bucking the trend are Harvard Law School and students who score high on the Law School Admission Test. More high-scoring students are applying to law school, and applications to Harvard’s law school are up significantly this year, according to the story.

Jessica Soban, assistant dean and chief admissions officer at Harvard Law School, spoke with the Boston Globe about the numbers. “The turn-around at the top of the pool shows that people who are serious about law school are coming back,” she told the newspaper.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Cooley Law School won’t enroll new 1Ls at Ann Arbor campus, plans faculty layoffs"

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