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May 23, 2013

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MacK

Dr. Pangloss, where are you?

This posting ignores so many issues.

First, the astonishing lengths that many law schools have been going to in their desperate efforts to get applications. Most tier 2 and tier 3 law schools are waiving (outright) application fees, postponing application cutoffs and contacting unlikely applicants with "apply now" "come-ons" akin to time-share hucksters (for example GMAT and GRE test takers.) Of course these activities have scared up some extra applications - but the big question is how many will of these no risk, no commitment applicants will matriculate? Remember, one effect of recent "negative coverage" as well as the many law suits, is that law schools are this year being effectively compelled to finally make semi-honest disclosures about outcomes - and it does not look pretty. It would seem that any sensible student, who had made multiple applications to law schools, for free, and secured an offer from a low ranked school, would, on seeing the hiring and salary data have second, third and fourth thoughts.

Second, the applications at issue were mostly for those who took the LSAT last year - when the economy looked pretty poorly. All the data shows hiring is up and a recovery underway. A stronger economy has a big negative impact on all graduate school matriculations.

Third, many law schools, especially those in the second and third tier (and many by all accounts in the PA area) are filling seats by offering massive tuition discounts to most of the class - " very, very low tuition" equates to a huge drop in revenue - and I take it from Prof. Filler's posts that Earle Mack is one such school. How are schools going to cope with collapsing tuition even if they do fill the seats. It might be worth reading this posting to get a sense of what may happen:

http://www.law.com/jsp/nlj/PubArticleNLJ.jsp?id=1202600579767&slreturn=20130423060818

Fourth, if law schools "bomb" their admission standards, there will be a bar exam "crisis" three years down the road (even for the notoriously easy PA bar), which might raise accreditation issues. Some of the students schools like Drexel and Widener are now admitting based on current anecdotal reporting would have serious trouble passing a bar exam. Of course a 159 LSAT will go somewhere in PA - Drexel's median last year was 157 with a quarter of the class under 154!, Widener's media was 153! Villanova (if you believe them) was letting in students at 155. Temple is so desperate it has established:

"an alternative discretionary admissions process which avoids over-reliance on the LSAT or any other arbitrary and abstract measuring factor in the admissions process called 'Sp.A.C.E.'"

which as far as anyone can tell consists of check for a pulse, can he/she sign the financial aid application.


But what is really astonishing is the suggestion that Philadelphia is the place to go to law school. The Philadelphia area has six law schools, Penn, Temple, Villanova, Rutgers-Camden, Widener, and Drexel - Pennsylvania also has Pittsburgh and Duquesne and another Widener campus - and that is before you consider the impact of law schools in Maryland and Delaware and the many "national" law schools situated an hour or so away. It is massively oversupplied with law school capacity. Admittedly as the examples above show, PA law schools are scraping the applicant barrel hard, but that too reflects outright desperation.

We are a few months away from seeing what actually happens. I predict that it will not be pretty.

Barry

"Third, many law schools, especially those in the second and third tier (and many by all accounts in the PA area) are filling seats by offering massive tuition discounts to most of the class - " very, very low tuition" equates to a huge drop in revenue "

From what I've gathered, law schools play a 'bait and switch' game here; their offers guarantee that most of the scholarship winners will lose them for 2L and 3L. That means that the real discounts are far less (for most students). I would also guess that these schools will raise 2L and 3L tuition quite a bit, to make up for the shortfall, since they're taking painful 1L cuts.

Does anybody know how much schools are raising their 2L: and 3L rates this year? It'd make sense to treat these people like the captive market that they are.

Well

To paraphrase Winston Wolf, let's not start rubbing each other's shoulders just yet.

If my math is right, there's still a drop in applications from January 2013 to May 2013 compared to 2012 -- it's just that the drop isn't as severe as the preceding period.

In any event, I'd be really interested to see when the new applicants who popped up this period took the LSAT. There's a plausible story to tell that the late applicants are the college grads who realized that they weren't going to land an attractive job after graduation and decided to just go to law school instead. One would expect that their numbers would be affected less by the crappy legal job market than would people who have a legal career as a longstanding goal.

MacK

Anecdotal stories are suggesting that many are making the tuition discount permanent and not based on a so-called scholarship with class rank conditions. It seems that many applicants have wised up. Also, while some law applicant bulletin board- blogs are extremely puerile, they serve the role of getting out details of tuition breaks, discounts, application fee waivers, etc. The result is a much more informed applicant pool than in recent years. And if the law students themselves don't look, their friends and family are looking.

Law school applications ≠ bums-in-seats (matriculating students)
bums in seats (matriculating students) ≠ full tuition

I would add that the 2L and 3L transfers for this year and next will be interesting to watch too.

Barry

Thanks, MacK. One of the things which interests me is that much of this data wasn't really available even a few years ago. For example, from what I gathered schools would count all employed students in their employment percentage, and then calculate mean salaries only for the subset of students with permanent, full-time jobs.

In the long run, it looks like this information getting out will lead to major changes within a few years, and radical changes within the decade.

BoredJD

I wouldn't call this "good news," more "less bad news."

Of course there are still several hurdles for an admin at Widener, Drexel, Temple, or Nova. You have to get admitted students to matriculate, they have to do so at prices significantly higher than what the degree is worth for the median student, and you have to retain them after the first year.

Given the common wisdom on the forums MacK mentioned, all three of those are less likely propositions now than they were in 2009 when I decided to go to school.

anon

Temple's Sp.A.C.E. program is over 30 years old ... as is easily discoverable on the school's website. Good research, MacK!

Who-horton

"applications are up. Of course, they're not actually up compared to last year"

Are things so bad that law professors feel the need to lie?

Steven Freedman

Judging by his poor command of facts, I'd say Mack did not take legal research & writing at my alma mater Temple Law. My LRW professor would have laughed me out of class if I had been so careless in my research.

Stan

Steven, to which facts are you referring? Please be more specific with your criticism.

MacK

Steven Freedman - did I say Sp.A.C.E. is recent? Did your legal research and writing instructor teach critical reading skills.

Sp.A.C.E. and programs like it are now being used to try to deal with the fall in applications from candidates with decent LSAT scores, GPAs and undergraduate degrees - trying to make a voracious money grab seem somehow virtuous. It will look that way until the Bar exam and job search looms.

CHS

"Temple is so desperate it has established:

"an alternative discretionary admissions process which avoids over-reliance on the LSAT or any other arbitrary and abstract measuring factor in the admissions process called 'Sp.A.C.E.'" which as far as anyone can tell consists of check for a pulse, can he/she sign the financial aid application."

This could be taken to suggest that the "desperate" action was in response to what the post and thread are talking about-- the current collapse of applications to law schools. I've never heard of Sp. A.C.E, but if it's 30 years old, the desperation is of much longer duration.

Anon

Nitpicking about whether or not the Temple program is of recent vintage seems a remarkably superficial objection to an otherwise cogent set of issues raised by MacK. If that's the best opposition that can be mustered, can we assume MacK has won his point?

CHS

For my part, I was not nitpicking or speaking in opposition to Mack's overall point. As I said, I had never heard of Sp. A.C.E., and but for the intervention of SF, a reader might think the program an example of a recently thought up attempt to deal with the current crisis. You wouldn't want someone to rely on that and repeat it. If you want to say Mack "wins" some point, go ahead. Fine by me. But "the case" can be made without saying/suggesting things that are not right.

Anon

My comment was not addressing yours specifically, but more that it was the third of a string of comments relating to one minor, tangential comment in MacK's set of issues that might have been misleading, the other two of which attacked the quality of his research in general and his "poor command of facts," without addressing more than that very minor point.

It may be worth pointing out that the program is not a recent development, but that fact does not mean it isn't now being used to admit an applicant pool that Temple would not have admitted in the past. In any case, whether or not MacK may have been misleading in that single statement does not appear to undermine his broader arguments, which none of the comments about the Temple program address.

Steven Freedman

My tongue in cheek statement had a dual purpose: 1) to praise the fine legal education I received at Temple Law School, and 2) to encourage posters to refrain from hyperbole and shoddy argumentation.

Stan

The only hyperbole and shoddy argumentation that I have seen in this entire thread has been your attack on MacK for a "fact" that you have yet to name. Everyone else seems to be engaged in a constructive debate.

Stan

Steven, please elaborate the specific argument of MacK's that you found to be "shoddy."

confused

Dan,

Can you explain how it makes economic sense to spend $150,000-$200,000 on a legal education in today's market?

Inigo Montoya

You keep using that word, "increase." I do not think it means what you think it means.

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