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January 23, 2012


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Alfred Brophy

Eric--very interesting. When did 20% of dental schools close?

Eric Chiappinelli

Thanks, Al. Actually 12% of dental schools closed, which would be equivalent to more than 20 law schools today. The number of dental schools went from 60 down to 52 between the mid-1980s and the mid-1990s.

Kelly Anders

Of the eight dental schools that closed, it would interesting to know where they were ranked in comparison to those that remained open. Were closures driven by rankings, cost, or a combination of factors? I also wonder whether any studies have been completed that offer assessments of which law schools would be most vulnerable.

John Mayer

Another factor in the Thomson-Reuter's sale of West's Law School Publishing division is ebooks. Textbooks generally are going to ebooks in K-12 and Higher Ed (e.g. Apple's recent iBooks Author announcement) and CALI's distribution of free casebooks at (full disclosure, I am CALI's Executive Director).

Profitability for paper versions of law school course materials is likely to decline in the coming decade as digital course materials, course packs and ebooks take hold.

John Mayer

Related to last comment. I remember reading about how Dental schools were leaders in moving to digital textbooks before there were Kindles and IPads. Article here ...

"Since 2001, one out of five American dentistry schools have launched digital reference libraries on VitalSourceTM Bookshelf."

I remember seeing the company .. VitalSource ... at an AALS booth in the early 2000's and talking to their President about how they were trying to repeat the success of the Dental school etextbook in the legal education arena. Vitalsource was sold to Ingram later on though and haven't been at AALS for quite some time.

roger dennis

Eric..great post, additionally analogies, technology may have reduced need for the service, and paraprofessionals took part of the business..r

H. Beau Baez

Georgetown is one of the dental schools that closed, so at least one dental school was from an elite institution. Interestingly, now with a shortage of dentists there is a push to open a few new schools. Maybe it would have been better for the dental schools to have remained open and ride the market fluctuation.

Dentist in Colorado Springs

It’s really a good topic to discuss on, what the conclusion I have no clue but the matter is very serious that we all know.

Michael Lewyn

Many of the "solutions" you list don't seem at all relevant to the problem. The "solutions" are mostly directed towards delivering a better product, and thus are desirable (if at all) whether enrollment is expanding OR declining.

But if students aren't applying, a school will have to cut downsize (or possibly even go under) no matter how good its product is.

In fact, many of these "solutions" may make the problem worse if they raise costs. For example, if "more practice-relevant curricula" cost more (e.g. by hiring more clinicians) they will make it harder for a law school to survive.

Big picture: improving the product (which the blog post is about) and cutting costs are not the same thing. It may even be hard to do both!


Here is a novel idea: have doctrial faculty actually teach more practice-relevant courses and infuse practical application and skills into their otherwise doctrinal courses. Of course, many law school faculties are ill equipped to do this as they have extremely limited (if any) experience practicing law. So, hiring more clinical professors may not be necessary. Instead rethink hiring criteria and hire some actual lawyers who have practiced in lieu of some of those PhDs in other fields who can write interdisciplinary scholarship. Every law faculty should (in my view) be balanced -- some PhDs/empiracists/theoreticians/interdisciplinarians, some practitioners writing good doctrinal scholarship, men, women, black, white, hispanic, gay, straight. Unfortuanately, I am in the minority -- as least on the diversity of experience and approach side (I think most of us are on board with racial/sexual diversity).

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