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'White Flight' Hitting Nation's Lesser Law Schools?

By William Peacock, Esq. on December 03, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Okay, class sizes are down slightly. Applications are down more than slightly. The market is correcting for the lack of employment opportunities for law graduates. This is something that we can all be happy about, right?

But who is avoiding law school? Apparently, per a recent study, it's white applicants who are eschewing a legal education, at least outside of the top tier schools. And while that means there is a more diversity (again, outside of the top tier schools), is this actually a good thing?

New Study: "'White Flight' Hits Nation's Law Schools"

According to a study by The Law School Tuition Bubble's Matt Leichter, published on Am Law Daily, from 2010 (the height of the, "Oh crap, the economy -- I'll wait it out in law school!" spike in enrollment) to 2012, there was a decline of 8,651 students. (Of those, 7,776 were reduced 1L enrollments.)

Who fled? There were 6,528 fewer white students (3,828 female and 4,443 male), while minority enrollment increased by 847.

Leichter further dissected the enrollment figures by school ranking, and found that for the top-tier schools, especially the top-50, there was little-to-no decline in white enrollment, while in lower-ranked and especially unranked schools, there was a steep decline in white enrollment and a corresponding increase in minority enrollment (particularly in unranked schools).

Diversity in Schools and the Profession

What does this mean for diversity?

For those lower-ranked schools, obviously this will increase the diversity of their classes. However, for the profession as a whole, the effect might be reversed.

Think about the career path of the unranked school graduate, especially in this economy. When we see declining enrollment across the board, plus declining minority enrollment at top schools (admittedly by less than 2 percent, but compared to a fraction of a percent of a decline for white students), plus an increase in minority enrollment in diploma mills, we may have more diverse student bodies, and more diverse graduating classes, but for the class of students who will actually find jobs and practice law, we might actually see a decrease in diversity. And that sounds like a problem.

Does the trend concern you, or is this much ado about nothing? Tweet your thoughts to @FindLawLP.

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