Law School Deans Discuss the State of Today’s Legal Education

Amanda Robert, Law School Deans Discuss the State of Today’s Legal Education, Chicago Lawyer, Oct. 26, 2010, available at http://www.chicagolawyermagazine.com/Archives/2010/10/Law-school-deans.aspx.

In the past two years, many law firms laid off partners and associates. Many stopped hiring, or – as shown by the Chicago Lawyer 2010 survey of the largest law firms in Illinois – decreased first-year associate salaries for the first time in years.

Despite this turmoil and an uncertainty over whether jobs and salaries will rise again, the deans of five Chicago law schools report that student enrollment shows no signs of slowing down.

In a recent roundtable discussion, John E. Corkery, dean of The John Marshall Law School; Harold J. Krent, dean of Chicago Kent-College of Law; Michael H. Schill, dean of University of Chicago Law School; Warren D. Wolfson, interim dean of DePaul University College of Law; and David N. Yellen, dean of Loyola University Chicago School of Law (who participated via conference call) discussed how changes in the economic climate and industry standards affect legal education.

The complete discussion can be found through the Chicago Lawyer.  Here is an excerpt from the discussion on legal education:

How does the economy affect the number of law school applicants?

Corkery: We have been up 3 or 4 percent the last couple of years. There are reports that people are up 10, 15, 20 percent.

Wolfson: Strangely enough, jobs are hard to get, we’re more expensive than ever, tuition keeps going up, but we had a record number of applications this year.

Yellen: We were up 30 percent for reasons that I really can’t explain. Applications have traditionally gone up in tough economic times. This time is consistent with that, although some schools have unusually large increases randomly.

Wolfson: What’s happened, too, is the competition for – and this again is magazine-driven – high LSATs and high grade averages. Of course, [University of] Chicago doesn’t have to worry about that, but the rest of us do. You need more scholarship money. The trend seems to be to veering away from need scholarships to what is happily called merit scholarships, which, in fact, is the buying of students. That’s where all of the schools are.

Schill: I think that’s certainly one way of thinking about scholarship assistance, but I think it’s also making it possible for people to attend law school.

The sticker price of law school is now, at a place like [University of] Chicago, $47,000. That’s pretty darn expensive. You do need financial aid of some sort to come to a school like that, particularly if you want to go into public interest law.

I think sometimes scholarships can be used as way to buy students. In other ways, it can just be thought of as ways to put together a group of intellectual stimulating, very able students and really create a class of people who are going to contribute a lot to discussion and to the school .

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