By Pat Higgins | The Duquesne Duke
As the economy continues to struggle to generate growth, the number of applications submitted to law schools nationwide continues to drop.
The number of applicants to Duquesne’s School of Law is down 12 to 15 percent at this point in the cycle from the same time last year, according to the Office of Admissions. This number has been trending downward in recent years Applications dropped 16 percent between 2011 and 2012.
Law school dean Ken Gormley said he continues to implement plans to improve the quality of education the school offers in spite of economic sluggishness.
“We have intentionally reduced the size of our classes for the last couple of years so that we don’t have to jeopardize our standards,” Gormley said. “So that we don’t have to lower our standards in terms of the quality of students we admit. Because the goal ultimately is to train people who will be excellent lawyers, who will do well on the bar exam, who will do well in practice, so the last thing I want to do is admit students just to fill seats if I believe they’re not going to do extremely well.”
“We don’t have to jeopardize our standards.”
School of Law dean
In addition to offering evening classes for students who work for a salary by day and pursue their law degree by night, Gormley said the school has restructured and reprioritized the curriculum by offering courses in energy law, intellectual property law and health law in an effort to provide courses that will “actually produce jobs for students in this area.”
Like Gormley, many students attribute the drop in applicants to the economy and the lack of a guarantee of employment even after graduate school.
“I always knew I wanted to go to law school,” said first-year law student Hillary Ahlquist. “I think it’s changed a lot for people who didn’t have the specific goal of becoming an attorney eventually. They’re not just going to go to law school just to try it out because it’s too expensive and it may not pay off.”
Ben Shirey, a third-year law student, said he does not think the value of a law degree is diminishing.
“I think there are many students that finish undergraduate and rather than not wanting to go to grad school, financially they can’t. I think it’s more recent graduates wanting to better their financial outlook,” Shirey said.
Gormley said the school has to continue to look for ways to evolve the curriculum.
“We have to be training students who are practicing in 2030, so you have to be looking ahead,” Gormley said. “Our job is to stay ahead of the curve and make sure that we are not looking at the old model of law but looking forward and that’s what we’re doing.”