In December 2014, I published an op-ed in which I predicted that “fewer than five ABA-accredited law schools will close by 2020, and the number will probably be zero.” Since I made that prediction, no schools have closed. So far, so good. (And by good I mean bad, since I want a lot of the lousy schools to close.)
However, last year two law schools in Minnesota, Hamline and William Mitchell, agreed to merge, and in December the ABA approved the merger. While technically this is not a closure, it certainly cuts against my overall point was that the number of accredited law schools in the U.S. only goes up, not down. (I should also note that the law schools at Rutgers-Camden and Rutgers-Newark are merging to become “Rutgers,” a single law school with two campuses.)
Meanwhile, the law schools most frequently mentioned as being at risk of closure continue to soldier on. This week brought news that Charleston School of Law will have its largest entering class ever this Fall, with as many as 200
suckers students. According to the school’s employment data, these students will have at best about a 49% chance of getting jobs as practicing attorneys, and probably less than that because a larger class means more competition for jobs. Thomas Jefferson Law School in San Diego currently has an astonishing 765 students despite a California bar passage rate of 44.68% and even though in 2015 just 59 of the 241 (24%) TJLS graduates obtained full-time jobs practicing law.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a couple more mergers similar to the one between William Mitchell and Hamline. Ohio and Illinois in particular have way too many law schools, and it might make sense for some of the lower-ranked ones in those states to join forces. But I still think that if you’re waiting for closures, you’re going to be waiting a long time.