I wouldn't call it good news/bad news. It's more apt to describe it as "rational"/ totally "out-of-whack-with reality" developments. I'm talking about how some law schools are adjusting to the economic realities of the day.
First, the "rational" developments: George Washington University Law School, which is ranked 20th in this year's U.S. News & World Report, is reducing its enrollment in response to the declining numbers of law school applications. GW's dean, Paul Schiff Berman, told The National Law Journal that that he "hopes to move enrollment below 450 and continue to reduce the number of new students in subsequent years. In fall 2011, the school enrolled 474 J.D. students."
GW's decision is noteworthy because it joins another top 50 law school—44th-ranked University of California Hastings College of the Law—in reducing enrollment. This spring, Hastings's dean, Frank Wu, announced plans to cut enrollment by a whopping 20 percent over three years. (The other law schools that have announced plans to cut incoming classes are Albany Law School, Creighton University School of Law, and Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center.)
If even top 50 law schools like GW and Hastings are decreasing their enrollment in response to the shrunken legal market, shouldn't lower-ranking schools at least consider doing the same thing? One would think so.
But here's the irrational, wacky news: Bottom-ranked, much-maligned Cooley Law School is doing the exact opposite. Instead of shrinking enrollment, it is opening another branch of its franchise in Tampa.
And it gets even crazier: Even though law school applications are generally declining, law students are knocking down Cooley's doors to get in. In fact, Cooley-Florida opened its door to 104 students—almost twice the number the school initially expected to enroll, reports the NLJ.
"Cooley's Tampa Bay campus enrollment exceeded our expectations," associate dean Jeff Martlew told the NLJ.
But according to critics, Florida already has 11 ABA–accredited law schools that graduate more J.D.s than what the job market can handle. With almost 4,000 students spread throughout Michigan (in Lansing, Grand Rapids, Auburn Hills, Ann Arbor) and now in sunny Florida, "Cooley is easily the largest law school in the country."
Ironically, Cooley decided to open in Florida because the weak economy in Michigan was jeopardizing the school's enrollment numbers, reports NLJ.
So let me see if I got this straight: Because Cooley grads can't find jobs in Michigan, the law school is worried—not about what will happen to its grads—but about its revenue stream. So the solution is to go somewhere far for fresh victims.
Hey, you can't say Cooley doesn't have a business plan.
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