Applications to Duquesne University's School of Law are down
about 15 percent from a year ago, but dean Ken Gormley isn't
scrambling to find more enrollees.
"We want to stick with our standards. We don't want to admit
students to fill seats if they may not succeed and pass the bar and
be able to practice law."
Duquesne is hardly alone among law schools experiencing a
dramatic decline in applicants. Nationwide, applications fell by
nearly 11 percent in 2011 and by almost 14 percent in 2012,
according to the Law School Admission Council, based in Bucks
Despite those statistics and a legal job market that has been
bleak since the economic crash of 2008, Mr. Gormley takes the
approach that smaller enrollments and more specialized curriculums
can benefit law schools and their students in the long run.
To that end, Duquesne has adopted course concentrations that
allow students to focus in areas such as energy law, health care law
and intellectual property, so they are better equipped to deal with
a challenging job market.
The school also has added new skills training to its first-year
curriculum and beefed up its clinical offerings that give students
the opportunity to handle specialized legal issues for groups such
as veterans and prisoners, Mr. Gormley said.
"We need to focus on giving students practical experiences," he
Across the country, the pool of applicants for law school
admissions in 2013 is shaping up to be even smaller than the past
According to data the council released last month, applications
as of mid-January were down 20 percent compared with the same time
in 2012. At that rate, total applications for the year could fall by
A combination of factors are likely contributing to the dramatic
drop-off, said William Carter Jr., dean of the University of
Pittsburgh School of Law.
"Certainly there's the down economy for legal hiring of new
graduates over the last couple years. There's the issue of negative
press in the mainstream, and the blogs about the economy and the
state of legal education. And there is the issue of growing student
debt. As someone still paying off his student loans, I understand
At Pitt, tuition for its law school in the 2012-13 academic year
was $28,728 for residents and $35,704 for nonresidents and
international students. Those figures don't include living costs and
additional fees such as books.
At Duquesne, tuition for the current academic year is $17,317 per
semester for the day program and $13,308 for the evening program.
Those costs don't include living expenses, either.
Mr. Carter declined to disclose statistics about applications to
Pitt, saying they "fluctuate from week to week."
"We're neither doing much better or much worse than the national
trend," he said.
The school had 253 graduates in 2011, according to an American
Bar Association report on job placement for law school graduates. …