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Recapturing the Law School Audience

Posted: February 12, 2014, 2:07 p.m.
by Devon Landman.

Law school applications have hit an all-time low around the country for the incoming class of 2014. Many different factors contribute to this drawback and being a law school applicant myself, this was something I wanted to investigate.

Did the bad economy cause the huge decrease in applicants? What can law schools do to rebound from their shrinking applicant pools?lalala-1

The solution to this conundrum is to implement extensive public relations strategies and start rebranding these law schools so more people will apply.

But first, a look at the numbers.

Paul Caron, editor of TaxProf Blog, provided statistics from a recent study in his post “Law School Applications Down 16%.”

“As of 12/06/13, there are 90,032 Fall 2014 applications submitted by 14,171 applicants,” Caron reported. “Applicants are down 13.6% and applications are down 15.7% from 2013.”

“A first year class of 35,000 next fall would mean that the total national enrollment over the previous three years will have been around 119,000, as compared to 153,700 from 2008-2010,” said Caron.

“Lastly, there will be 22.6% fewer law students than there were four years earlier, despite a radical decline in admissions standards,” said Caron.

Of course, the economy and legal market play a huge role when a person is weighing out the pros and cons of attaining a law degree.

Charles Roboski, assistant dean for admissions at Michigan State University College of Law, said that debt is a huge concern for undergraduates thinking about going to law school.

“A contributing factor, I think, is the increasing amount of debt that undergraduates have when they graduate and their concern about taking on more debt,” Roboski said. “But as the economy picks up, there will be a greater need for attorneys. We will see fewer graduates in the next few years and this bodes well for graduates as there will be fewer new attorneys seeking employment.”

However, the economy is not entirely to blame for the drop in applicants. According to Ann Levine, founder and law school admission consultant at Law School Expert, The Wall Street Journal and New York Times have influenced many people’s decisions not to apply.

“The WSJ and NYT published a series of articles on this three to four years ago, and it made people really stop and think about law school before going,” Levine said. “Prior to this, it was seen as a default degree for people who did not know what else to do.”

So, where does PR come into play for law schools to recruit more applicants?

Most law schools have in-house marketing departments. Their role is about communicating information to diverse audiences; however, with application numbers spiraling downward these past few years, they would have to implement proactive strategies to keep more people applying.

“Strategies that would rebrand law schools would be increased scholarships, increased job prospects, showing students that they are serious about getting their students employed post-graduation, and ways to pay back student loan debt in a flexible/income-scale-based program,” Levine said.

It is extremely important when these schools promote more of the pros of getting a law degree, they do so in a certain way.

“I think law schools need to stay above the fray on this discussion. If they come out with too glossy of a pitch, naysayers will pin them to the wall with job statistics, claiming they are self-interested,” Levine said. “But law schools could advertise tuition reductions, additional scholarships and increased resources for career planning as part of a PR strategy.”

PR practitioners could see this law school conundrum as a way to do their job really well. With the right strategies and tactics being implemented, law schools can get their numbers back on track.

A note for current law school applicants and future applicants: it’s a great time to be applying to law school because people are getting accepted to schools they would not have been admitted to five years ago.

I like the sound of that!


  1. Post comment

    This blog post was so incredibly interesting to me because in about six months, I will be beginning my applications to law school. However, I never knew that the number of law applications each year was declining. I would be interested in comparing the 13.6% decrease in law school applicants to any change in medical school applicants or any other graduate school applicants.
    I do agree that graduate school tuition is one of the major reasons for this decline in applicants, but I do not believe that is fair. Today, it seems that it is almost impossible to get a top-tier job unless you do well in a graduate school program. Inevitably, this causes a cycle to begin. On a broad scope, only those that have the money to afford graduate school can get good jobs…to have money? It sounds like a pretty unfair situation for the majority.

  2. Post comment

    It sounds like what law schools need, and the steps described, lean more toward a need to rethink their business model rather than just rebrand. The biggest issue isn’t the perception problem, but the cause of the perception problem. It makes sense that people think twice about spending the money for law school when they don’t know what they want to do. What law schools need to do is change the way they operate as a business, not simply make themselves more attractive; repositioning rather than just rebranding.


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