Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Alas, yesterday's poll got linked from a blog with a less academic audience, so I've decided to close it. In any case, here are the results, with over 300 votes:
How many currently accredited ABA law schools (there are about
200) do you think will close over the next ten years? (Assume that there are no
changes to federally guaranteed student loans and that there is a modest
improvement in the job market for lawyers.)
|Total Votes :
A few observations of my own, and then I'll open comments. That 15% think no law schools at all will close may be wishful thinking, but perhaps there is a sound explanation for thinking that correct. My own opinion was that we'll see several law schools close during the next decade, but probably not more than ten--and that was the majority view among readers by a wide margin. Most vulnerable are going to be free-standing law schools that are relatively young. Relatively young law schools part of universities that are in vulnerable financial shape are also likely candidates. 25% of respondents expected more serious carnage, on the order of 5% or much more of current law schools closing. I would agree with the prophets of doom at least to this extent: I expect more than 5% of current law schools, and probably more like 30-50%, will contract in various ways over the next decade: they will admit fewer students (we're already seeing that), and will shrink their faculties. That, of course, would be a sensible response to the economic climate generally, and for lawyers in particular.
Of course, all of this is predicated on two assumptions: a modest economic rebound over the next decade and, even more importantly, continued federal guarantees of student loans, which supply the operating budget of the majority of law schools. A change in student loans--for example, shifting it back to the private sector--would have far more disruptive effects, since private lenders are, one suspects, more likely to do the due diligence on probable employment and salary outcomes that some students are not presently doing (and they are also likely to set the bar higher for what would make the loans risk-worthy). In a world with only private lending for higher education, I would expect the number of law schools that close over the next decade to be considerably higher. So, too, another economic collapse, or an extended period of economic stagnation, will also push the number of closures higher.
Or so, in any rate, it seems to me. Thoughts from readers? Signed comments only: full name in the signature line, plus valid e-mail address.