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Due to diminishing enrollments, the author of a new study is predicting that more than a dozen law schools may soon close their doors.
Robert Zemsky, a professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania, said law school enrollment dropped by 21 percent at private schools and 18 percent at public schools between 2011 and 2015. Analyzing information from 171 law schools in Mapping a Contracting Market, Zemsky concluded that the third-tier schools will drop out first.
"You can't continue to muddle through and hold your breath," he told an audience hosted by Access Group Center for Research & Policy Analysis in Chicago. "You can only hold your breath for so long."
Zemsky based his prediction on diminishing enrollments and attrition rates, which equaled reduced revenues for law schools. Top-tier schools had the lowest attrition rates, he said, and bottom-tier schools had the highest.
"You'd think the least attractive school would charge the lowest price," he said. "What they're doing is admitting students with relatively low LSAT scores, and charging them a high price for gambling on them."
Cleveland-Marshall emeritus law professor David Barnhizer agreed. He said that law schools in the Midwest region are in a "survival of the fittest" mode. Lesser law schools won't be able to attract qualified students, and several "are likely to simply wither away," he said.
Amidst the diminishing returns at law schools around the country, Indiana Tech School of Law opened for business in 2013. In its first year, the school fell short by 70 students to reach its inaugural goal of 100. The American Bar Association denied accreditation in 2015, but gave the school provisional accreditation in 2016.
The 20 remaining students in the school's charter class graduated, and 12 of them registered to take a bar exam. Only one student passed the July exam.
Following this news, the law school announced in October that it will close at the end of June 2017 after a $20 million loss. This closure may be the first of a trend.
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