Preparing to meet with donors recently, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law dean Andrew Klein was excited to pass along the news that going to law school is cool again.
The Law School Admissions Council is reporting an 8.1 percent increase in applications for the 2018-2019 academic year compared to the previous school year. Also, applicants with higher LSAT scores are returning. Individuals scoring between 165 and 169 rose 27.2 percent, while those between 175 and 180 skyrocketed 59.9 percent, albeit that was the smallest number of students at just 689.
Klein, who has led IU McKinney for six years, said the students coming to the Indianapolis law school have always been an academically strong bunch. The difference this year has been earlier commitments, as a majority of the students enrolling turned in their deposits to hold their seats by May. In the past, most of the deposits did not arrive until June or July.
Fall classes at all of Indiana’s law schools have started and the incoming students are settling into their routines.
IU Maurer got just over 2,000 applications, which compares to the number received in 2013, said dean Austen Parrish. While about 350 applications were submitted from Hoosiers, the bulk came from out-of-state students.
Competition for the top applicants is still fierce but, Parrish said, the 1Ls coming to the Bloomington law school this year have a high intellect and have done amazing things.
Although legal education might be breathing easier, some law schools are still struggling from the disruption brought by the Great Recession. The tightening job market for lawyers, coupled with stories of law school graduates crushed by student loan debt, caused many would-be law students to pursue other careers.
Valparaiso Law School is one casualty. As Klein pointed out, the 139-year-old institution has withstood two world wars and the Great Depression, but the upheaval of the last five years was too much. The northwest Indiana school suspended admissions for the 2018-2019 academic year and is in talks with Middle Tennessee State University about the possibility of transferring the law school to Murfreesboro.
Last year, Valparaiso, still under sanction from the American Bar Association’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, admitted an academically strong class, but also an exceptionally small one at just 28 students.
An estimated 104 second- and third-year students are returning to Valparaiso this semester, according to interim dean David Cleveland. About 12 students have transferred out, most of them from the 2017 incoming class.
Neither Notre Dame nor IU Maurer had any transfer applications from Valparaiso law students. However, IU McKinney received several and the Indianapolis school is expecting to enroll about six transfer students from Valparaiso, according to IU McKinney vice dean Michael Pitts.
In addition to fewer students, Valparaiso Law School has a leaner faculty roster. Most recently, two professors — David Herzig, who taught tax law, and Geneva Brown, who taught criminal law — left the school and returned to private practice.
The law school now lists 15 full-time faculty on its website. Five more, including former dean Andrea Lyon, are identified as senior research faculty.
As the university continues exploring strategic alternatives, Cleveland said the day-to-day operations and classes are continuing at the law school. The courses, professional services and clinics are all available.
He acknowledged concerns about the future of the law school can be distracting, but said he believes getting the students back on campus and having them in regular contact with the faculty will be helpful.
A teacher at heart, Cleveland said, “I’m very excited to have the students back and starting the academic year.”•