A well-respected law professor is predicting that a top law school will close in the next few years.
“In 2 to 4 years, a university administration will shut down a top law school and we may never see it coming,” Dorothy A. Brown, a professor of tax law at Emory University School of Law, wrote in a column for Forbes on Thursday.
Brown previously predicted the demise of law schools last year, citing a declining legal job market.
Now Brown is doubling down on her predictions. Because law school is no longer a safe bet to landing a lucrative legal job, first-year (1L) applications have been sinking at many schools.
In an interview with Business Insider last year, Brown said that, “Most people at top-50 law schools think this is a fourth-tier or a third-tier problem, and I think that misses the mark.”
Even at top-tier law schools, like Yale and Harvard, applications are down 13% and 18% respectively between 2011 and 2015. At Columbia, the problem is even more acute: Applications are down 25% over the same time period, according to the American Bar Association.
Law schools with declining 1L enrollment face a tough choice: Either lower admissions standards — GPA and LSAT scores — to admit more students, and ensure they create enough revenue to erase deficit, or law schools will be forced to make do with smaller class sizes and less revenue, Brown says.
“It used to be that if you wanted more revenue, you could simply raise tuition, however those days are long gone,” Brown writes.
On the other side of the coin, schools that admit less-qualified students have to contend with their students failing the bar exam and not securing jobs in the legal field. In turn, that could affect schools’ ranking in US News & World Report.
Large universities — which house the most prestigious law schools — will end up getting rid of law schools if current trends continue, Brown told Business Insider last year.
And Brown won’t be surprised.