Law school applications drop over last 2 years

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Applications to three of the four law schools in the state are in free fall as prospective students think twice about taking on mountains of debt at a time when job prospects are dim.

Indiana University Maurer School of Law, I.U. Robert H. McKinney School of Law and Notre Dame Law School have seen applications plunge as much as 31 percent in the past two years.

Only Valparaiso University Law School has escaped the downdraft since the schools’ heyday three years ago.

law-school-chart.jpgThe trend is so abrupt that Gary Roberts, dean of the I.U. McKinney School of Law, openly frets about his options.

“If the falloff is too great, we may have to consider lowering the admissions standards just to be financially viable,” he said.

Law schools are not accustomed to scarcity. Applications swelled as students sought refuge from the recession, peaking in 2010, but as law firms adjusted to the economy by cutting back on hiring, more and more potential students got cold feet and backed away.

As of mid-March, law schools across the nation had received 49,603 applications, down 17 percent and 30 percent, respectively, from the same time in the prior two years, according to the Law School Admission Council in Newtown, Pa.

In Indiana, applications have dipped most at the I.U. Maurer School of Law – 31.5 percent from 2010, to 2,358 last year.

• The Notre Dame Law School is down 28.1 percent, to 2,888.

• The I.U. McKinney School of Law has fallen 27.1 percent, to 1,385.

• Valparaiso is down only five applications, to 1,467.

Experiences like those of Teresha Twyman and Kelsey Raves, both of whom graduate from I.U. McKinney School of Law in May, spark fear in would-be students.

Twyman took the bar exam in February and is set to graduate next month. But she has no job prospects and a mound of debt approaching six figures.

She started law school four years ago just as the legal job market began to dry up.

Now Twyman and Raves, 25, of Pittsburgh, are stuck with few options.

“I’m open to whatever I can find,” Raves said. “I’ve been submitting applications for jobs that don’t start until August, but I haven’t found anything yet.”

Before the recession, law school students often parlayed summer associate work into full-time gigs after graduating.

Not anymore. The percentage of interviews resulting in summer associate offers fell slightly in 2012, to 44 percent, according to data from NALP, formerly the National Association for Law Placement. The nadir for summer associate hiring remains 2009, when just 36 percent of interviews resulted in offers.

The declines translate to a steep loss in revenue for the universities.

Cutting class sizes to maintain stricter admissions standards translates to lower revenue. But accepting students that otherwise wouldn’t have made the cut dilutes those admissions benchmarks.

“There’s no question that we can bring in as many [students] as we want, but we want to retain the quality of student,” Roberts said.

Last year’s application number was the lowest at Notre Dame in six years, Dean Nell Jessup Newton said. Yet the university has maintained its first-year class size at about 180 students due to its intense selectivity and high quality of applicants.

“If I had to bring in 400 students, I think it could be affecting us more,” she said.

It’s harder to get a sense of how the drop might be affecting I.U. Maurer School of Law. Interim Dean Hannah L. Buxbaum offered her only comment via email: “We’ve had significant spikes in applications recently, particularly in the early 2000s and again around 2010, and we’re seeing our application volume return to more normal historical levels,” she wrote.

Indiana Tech presses ahead

Indiana Tech is pressing forward with the opening of its law school despite the declining interest in a legal degree.

The school in Fort Wayne will welcome its first class of law students this fall at its flagship Allen County campus during one of the worst times imaginable.

Indiana Tech launched its plans to build a law school before the bottom fell out. But the law school’s new dean, Peter Alexander, remains undeterred. With $16 million spent on a new building, it’s hard to abandon ship now, he argued.

“You go back three, 3-1/2 years, we were still OK in terms of admission,” Alexander said. “It wasn’t until last year that we saw a significant downturn and then the bottom fell out this year.”

He’s banking on an unusual curriculum that combines classroom and practical education to draw students. With commitments from more than 100 entities around the state, Alexander said, third-year students will have opportunity to embark on a 40-hour externship with a law firm or judicial office.

He’s targeting 100 students for the first-year class, though he admits that might not be attainable.

“Now that we’ve seen the marketplace,” Alexander said, “our board of trustees is committed to opening the law school with whatever number we have.”•


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.