Search the Lounge


« South Carolina AG Weighs In On InfiLaw Effort To Buy Charleston Law | Main | The Challenge for "Lower Tier" Law Schools (and Davidoff on the InfiLaw Purchase of Charleston Law) »

June 04, 2014


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Those are significant numbers, both the decline in enrollment and proposed financial support from the University and this is a top 20 law school.

How long will universities be willing to make this kind of financial contribution to their law schools when ABA standards/requirements stand in the way of more cost-effective operations (e.g., student:faculty ratios, law libraries, tenure and other faculty perks, separate facilities, etc., etc.), especially when the law schools is not highly ranked and students continue to have poor employment prospects (and will thus never give back to the university)?

How can a university justify raising non-law school tuition and/or cutting from other programs to support a mediocre law school (I am not referring to Minnesota here)?

Everyone is waiting for a free-standing law school to close. It may be that a university pulls the plug on its law school first.


Faculty here and elsewhere need to rethink the value of practice. Schools are to train future lawyers and business people.


Ellen: "Everyone is waiting for a free-standing law school to close. It may be that a university pulls the plug on its law school first."

My money is on a free-standing schools. There are several with massive drops in class size; even if they held tuition constant, they've taken 30-40% gross revenue hits. They have no realistic prospect of increasing class sizes or holding the line on tuition. They have few assets, except for the buildings, and those might have limited market value, depending on location.

And most importantly, banks might be far less willing to loan money than a university administration.

Academic spouse

My spouse is a non-law prof at a school with a mid-Tier 2 law school. They announced to university faculty that the law school has a $1M shortfall and will need a no-strings cash infusion.


The net gain to universities from their law schools over the last 20 years far outweighs these cash "infusions" and buyouts. Only those trustees with the most extreme "short term" outlooks (at the for profits, for example) and weakest positions would risk shutting down such institutions at this point in the cycle. The dominant view is that expressed by the president of Penn State recently. They will "right size" through attrition for the most part and wait it out. The scam artists are not likely to get satisfaction from this process.



Who the h... are you calling "scam artists"????


Anon: You are assuming the universities are in a position to "wait it out."

In terms of right sizing?? What does that mean?? Does it mean the right student:faculty ratio, given that faculty salaries and related expenses are the largest cost (by far) at most law schools? If the students aren't there, are they going to wait until faculty die?? From what I have learned, a rather small percentage of tenured faculty are taking buyouts at most schools offering them. Far fewer than are needed to "right size" quickly.

What ever benefits many benefits universities got from their law schools is in the past. What counts is the present and future.

BTW, the true scam artists in this saga are the law school administrations and faculty.


There is no way to pare faculty sizes down fast enough through attrition to weather this.

anon prof

I know that the number of new faculty declined a lot this year. The number of laterals hired fell off a cliff. Have you seen how short the list is? But that there were even as many hired as there were surprises me. Given the rapidly declining enrollment, could someone please tell me why any law school in the country outside of the top 10 is hiring? Any predictions on this year coming up? How many law deans (and law faculty) will be foolish enough to hire?

anon, good nurse

There was a lot of lateral hiring, actually. Leiter's list is only tenured faculty and this blog never updated the list of pretenured folks. Entry level hiring was a bust -- lateral hiring, not so much.

anon prof

anon, good nurse, that's not my impression at all. I'm astonished that you think lateral hiring was better than entry level. I don't teach at a top 14 school, but no one I'm talking with thinks this was anything other than a disaster for hiring.

But, really, what difference does the past make. Poor financial decisions to hire last year may have to be handled by tenure denials down the road.

Let's look at this going forward. Why would any law school outside of the top 10-20 hire this coming year? Are any schools outside of the top 20 holding steady in enrollment and student credentials? Are they confident they're going to be able to do that going forward?

I might expect limited hiring for critical needs in areas like tax, advanced corporate law, maybe commercial law. Otherwise, get visitors or pay a regular faculty member extra. What am I missing?

Orin Kerr

Anon Good Nurse writes: "There was a lot of lateral hiring, actually." That's certainly not my impression, at least if the point of comparison is lateral hiring from the decade or so before application numbers dropped. Compared to then, lateral hiring has seemed very very weak.

anon, good nurse

I do think lateral hiring was far better than entry level hiring. It may well be true that this is far more of a top tier school phenomenon than an across-the-board phenomenon. And yes, I am comparing this year to the past few years rather than to a decade ago. But while the bottom fell out of the entry level market this year (31% fewer hires than last year), the drop wasn't nearly as steep in the lateral market. Maybe that's a fluke, but it prompted Brian Leiter to say that there were "far more lateral hires than one would have expected given the economic climate."

Orin Kerr

Anon, good nurse:

By my quick count, Leiter lists 61 lateral hires. 10 of the 61 are to become Dean, though, which is a special kind of lateral hire; that leaves 51 non-Dean hires. By my quick count, of the 51 non-Dean hires, only about 25 are outside the T14. So lateral hiring does seem to be pretty Top-14-focused right now.


Orin Kerr gets this right. The T-10, maybe T-14 are not feeling any ill effects of declining enrollment, so they are hiring per usual.

Furthermore, a number of the lateral hire w/tenure list are established stars moving from one elite school to another elite school.

There are definitely not many junior faculty lateraling to higher ranked schools.


There is a point to come out of all of this with Minnesota: there is no longer room for 20+ elite law schools. There simply are not enough elite job outcomes or elite students to sustain it.

Minnesota's lower quartile lsat number has dropped all the way to 156. That is barely above average. And keep in mind, this figure could apply to as much as 49.4% of the class.

Administrators have made a foolish, short-sighted decision to hold the line on median numbers and let the bottom 50% of student quality fall off the map. This discrepancy will unnerve the better students, and create for awkward class participation because some students will be clearly far superior to others. On top of that, the large minority of weaker students will effectively be paying tuition for the stronger students, which may cause some animosity.

Schools like Minnesota would be better off cutting tuition across the board and talking in a larger class that meets a higher minimum standard, even if that means giving up some quality at the top end.



Your comment about medians is spot on.

At an "elite" law school, the first year classes must be taught to the LCD; which means a VERY low level.

Hence, pandering by way of resort to cartoons and sitcoms to convey the material, spoon feeding, focus on "soft" subjects upon which students can "opine" without any reading or preparation, personality contests among the profs, etc.

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • StatCounter
Blog powered by Typepad