Get Ready for Some Law Schools to Close

Jordan Weissman:

OK, slight exaggeration. But with applications in free fall, schools are locked in a brutal competition to attract students who might theoretically one day be qualified to sit for a bar exam. And that, the New York Times reports today, has meant slashing tuition and dolling out discounts. At Northwestern University School of Law, one of the top ranked institutions in the country, “74 percent of first-year students this academic year received financial aid, compared with only 30 percent in 2009,” the paper notes. The University of Iowa, University of Arizona, and Penn State University have cut their prices. J.D.s are on sale!

That said, much like actual Black Friday merchandise, law degrees are being marked down from insanely high starting points. At Northwestern, the sticker price for tuition is about $56,000, to start.

But anyway, while I could choose this moment to revive my argument with Above the Law about whether it’s a good idea to go to law school (I’ve argued it is), there’s a different point I want to dwell on today. It seems fairly obvious that some law schools are going to have to close in the not too distant future. Between the fall of 2010 and fall of 2013, enrollments dropped 24 percent. This year’s crop of new students should be even smaller. And while schools are doing everything in their power to pare back expenses and prop up their head counts, it seems like someone is going to fall victim to a collapsing demand. “I don’t get how the math adds up for the number of schools and the number of students,” Northwestern Dean Daniel Rodriguez, told the Times. That’s because it probably won’t.