Survey says: Fewer students, more practical training

Law schools have continued to whittle down their class sizes and introduce more practical training, according to a recent survey of law school admissions officers.

According to a survey released by Kaplan Test Prep, 54 percent of law school admissions officers reported downsizing their incoming class for the entering class of 2013. The survey indicated that some law schools plan to continue to decrease class sizes next year as well. According to the survey, 25 percent of admissions officers surveyed said their institutions planned to admit fewer students for the entering 2014 class.

Additionally, last year’s survey showed 51 percent of admissions officers reported cutting the size of their entering classes.

“As schools have been faced with a drastic decline in the number of applicants, schools are forced to make a tough decision,” said Jeff Thomas, director of Kaplan Test Prep’s pre-law programs.

Thomas said more law schools have been forced to choose between maintaining the size of their incoming classes or maintaining the caliber of students and quality of academic rigor of past years.

The survey also reported that law schools are changing their curriculum to help students become more practice ready post-graduation. About 71 percent of law schools reported introducing more clinical courses and practical training into their curricula.

“There has been a tremendous amount of scrutiny on the value of a legal education today, ways in which it needs to evolve,” Thomas said. “There’s been criticism of legal education with regard to oversaturating the marketplace with lawyers, not making students practice ready or getting them ready for the workforce upon graduation.”

About 78 percent of law school admissions officers believe that significant changes need to be made in legal education to better prepare future attorneys for the changing legal employment landscape and the legal profession.

Admissions officers from 127 of the nation’s 203 American Bar Association approved law schools completed the Kaplan Test Prep Survey. Surveys were completed between July and September 2013.