According to the Law School Admission Council, 53,548 people had submitted fall 2015 law school applications as of early August, down 1.8 percent from 2014 and down from more than 100,000 applicants in 2004. 2013 saw the lowest point for first-year law school enrollment in 36 years. And, according to a recent analysis by University of St. Thomas School of Law professor Jerry Organ, from 2010 to 2013, the population of entering students with the lowest LSAT scores grew to more than 20 percent of total matriculates, while those with the best scores made up only 16 percent. Whether one believes that such tests are an indicator of academic success or not, the fact remains that bar exam passage rates in a number of states—including Texas—took dives in 2014. Debt loads for law students are as staggering as they’ve ever been, with a 2013 national in-state tuition average of $23,879 for public law schools and $41,985 for private schools. American Bar Association statistics show that the average 2012 graduate of a public law school borrowed $84,600, while the average 2012 graduate of a private law school borrowed $122,158. As the application numbers reflect, more and more would-be law students are questioning the wisdom of making such an investment in an environment of dismal job prospects. Last year, 10 law schools were unable to find permanent, bar passage-required jobs for more than 30 percent of their graduates. Even the latest glimmer of good news came with a few caveats. The National Association for Law Placement recently announced that the employment rate for graduates of the Class of 2014 was 86.7 percent, a 2.2 percent increase from the previous year. But the Class of 2014 was substantially smaller than the one that preceded it—by nearly 3,000 graduates, in fact. So how are Texas law schools confronting these changes in legal education? To find out, we posed the following question to the deans of our state’s law schools: Legal education in the United States is facing a daunting set of challenges at the current time, from demands for curricular reform and making graduates more “practice ready” to diminished applicant pools, a discouraging job market, and mounting student debt brought on by rising tuition. In 600 words or less, please describe your law school’s responses to or plans for responding to these challenges. Please try to highlight efforts or programs unique to your law school; in other words—what distinguishes what your law school is doing in response to the problems impacting modern legal education? On the following pages, you’ll discover what our educators are doing to prepare the next generation of legal professionals for a challenging—and evolving—job market. —John Browning, chair, Texas Bar Journal Board of Editors Photographs courtesy of participating law schools
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