Most legal educators will agree that we are at a crossroads in legal education. This was all but confirmed when Moody's recently warned that if standalone law schools do not reevaluate business models and strategies, they are at the greatest risk to close.
The ABA Journal reported on the Moody’s analysis where Moody's said that lower job-placement rates and salaries will keep demand depressed for lower-tier law schools, particularly stand-alone schools, which are “highly tuition dependent.”
Some of the highlights from the report:
“As students evaluate the return on investment for a high-priced professional degree, law schools without premier brands or the resources of a comprehensive university will face greater credit stress and risk of closure, requiring leadership teams to re-evaluate business models and strategies.”
The decline in demand for a legal education is part of a “fundamental shift in the legal field, rather than the typical cyclical rise and fall in demand."
"New tuition pricing could lead to a short-term boost in enrollment, but it probably won’t lead to a long-term increase in demand because the pricing strategies do not provide a fundamental change in the cost students are paying for legal education." The report also cautions that there could be a downside to tuition cuts because "many students still associate price with quality."
It's important for law school leadership to understand that this is not a cyclical downturn. Even though we've seen these lower numbers of law students before, there is now a reputable third party saying that the large numbers of law students will not return.
The downturn in the legal market and the perceived return on investment of a legal education has changed the landscape dramatically. This at a time when there are more law schools than ever.
Law schools have to make fundamental changes to the way they offer legal education and do it sooner rather than later.