The lawyer glut is hitting lower-tier law schools hard. In the wake of the Great Recession, several of them—including New England School and Albany Law School—have been forced to cut teaching staffs as enrollment waned. Now one of Indiana’s four law schools, Valparaiso Law, has announced plans for major faculty buyouts. The Indiana Lawyer reports:
Valparaiso University School of Law announced Friday afternoon it will offer buyouts to tenured faculty and faculty members with multi-year contracts. The school said the decisions reflected a post-recession era in which law schools “are facing a sharp decline in student applications and enrollment.” The northwest Indiana school also indicated it expects fewer future students.
Even though the total number of law school applicants has started to stabilize after plummeting for several straight years, it’s likely that the legal education system will have to go through more painful readjustments like this one before it arrives at a new equilibrium. The inflated market for legal services of the 1990s and early 2000s is never coming back, and new computer algorithms are already completing some of the tasks that lawyers used to do for six figures.
The big question in the years ahead is whether the forces battering institutions like Valparaiso and Albany will ever reach up the U.S. News ladder and force major cuts to the top schools as well, as some astute observers are predicting? Valparaiso Law, founded in 1879, is not a top 100 institution, but because it is connected to a reputable four-year university, it was considered less vulnerable than some of the stand-alone institutions that have been hit hardest since the law school bubble started to deflate. It’s too early to say whether all of the major law schools will be able to weather the storm unscathed.