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Want a Free Ride at Law School? Act Quickly, Offer Ends Soon!


A number of law school applicants are getting offers that sound too good to be true. Growing increasingly desperate for highly qualified students, Washington University School of Law has begun offering applicants a free ride via full tuition scholarships, as long as they respond within 24 hours of receiving the offer.

On the surface, this sounds like a good deal given the stratospheric cost and uncertain payoff of law school. But this discussion at Above the Law makes it clear that many in the industry are less than comfortable with the use of a sales tactic more commonly associated with the Home Shopping Network than with top-flight law schools.

High-pressure sales gimmicks are signs, as Inside Higher Ed notes, that these schools find themselves in a tricky situation:

As the financial risks of attending law school become more apparent, schools are left to fight over a smaller pool of competitive applicants.

Ordinarily when a business is losing revenue it must think of ways to cut costs. But law schools are unique in that they must strike a “delicate balance” between locking in revenues and maintaining an incoming class with high credentials, said Henderson. The credentials of entering classes represent 22.5 percent of the U.S. News ranking formula, Henderson and Rachel Zahorsky explain in an ABA Journal cover story.

“No law school wants to fill their class with low-credential folks or not have enough people at the right price to cover operating costs,” Henderson said.

This is admittedly an extreme example, but it’s not entirely unprecedented. Inside Higher Ed notes that other schools have taken to offering bizarre incentives to convince applicants to attend. More than anything, this is a sign of just how desperate law schools are becoming.

A look at the data suggests that they’re right to be worried. Over the past few decades, the legal industry was booming, and the number and size of law schools increased accordingly. Now that the legal market is contracting, students have stopped applying, and these schools are now competing for an applicant pool that may never recover. Top 14 law schools are still safe, but many of their lower-ranked peers may not survive the crunch. Clearly, administrators are prepared to do whatever it takes to make sure their schools are among the few that survive the culling.

[Law scales image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Andrew Allison

    Re: “Top 14 law schools are still safe, but many of their lower-ranked peers may not survive the crunch.”
    I’m unconvinced. VM argues that higher ed is in throes of a revolution as students begin to question it’s cost. Just how much is the cachet of a JD from a top-14 school worth in a rapidly shrinking market?

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