The deans of Maryland’s two law schools are excited about the new academic year and their incoming 1L classes, as application rates have largely stabilized after years of precipitous drops.
Nationwide, law school applications are up 3.3 percent over last year — and 11.6% over the last two years, according to the Law School Admission Council, or LSAC.
According to the American Bar Association, more than 100,000 people applied to ABA-accredited law schools in 2004, the peak year — but applications began dwindling, dropping below 60,000 per year over the next decade. As of July 31 this year, 62,427 people had applied to U.S. law schools, LSAC reported.
The shrinking applicant pool over the last decade prompted both of Maryland’s law schools to plan for smaller incoming class sizes, according to University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law Dean Donald Tobin.
“I think that there was a movement from both UB and Maryland to reduce our class size over that 2012 to 2014 period so we have a new normal now, which is 200 to 220 students,” he said.
University of Baltimore School of Law Dean Ronald Weich said that 2019 enrollment is “strong and steady” and that the school is getting a “better yield” as it brings in the same number of students from a smaller pool of applicants. UB Law received 1,120 applications this year, down from last year’s 1,235 applications, according to the law school’s spokeswoman. At UM Carey, applications were up around 15% for 2019, a spokeswoman said.
Each law school’s median LSAT from the enrolled 1L class went up one point from last year: UB’s from 152 to 153 and UM Carey’s from 158 to 159, based on preliminary information.
As of Aug. 13, UB expected to welcome 226 new students this month. As of Aug. 14, UM Carey had enrolled 217 students.
Both deans highlighted their schools’ location in downtown Baltimore as an asset, arguing that the city’s national reputation as a dangerous place has not significantly affected their institutions.
“I think it’s actually one of the special things about Carey Law,” Tobin said of the campus’ location. “One of the advantages is we view part of our role as being part of the community.”
Weich said UB is “on the front lines” of combating a negative image of the city. He specifically called out President Donald Trump’s recent Twitter swipes at the city.
“The president’s attacks are unfair and outrageous and fundamentally untrue,” Weich said. “Baltimore has many challenges, as do other cities, but we are a strong community and the law school is shoulder to shoulder with the rest of Baltimore in addressing those problems. We’re proud of the city and we’re proud of our role in the city.”
Weich and Tobin said they field questions about campus safety from prospective students but believe being in the city is a draw, not a deterrent, for applicants.
“Obviously, people need to take common-sense precautions as they move around the city, just as you would in Washington, New York or Chicago,” Weich said.
Said Tobin: “Cities are cities.”
Trends and strengths
Both deans emphasized their schools’ responsiveness to national trends in legal education, including an emphasis on technology and the law.
Weich pointed to UB’s forthcoming Legal Data and Design clinic, set to begin work in the spring, and courses in electronic discovery.
“We want to be sure students are adept at dealing with technology,” he said.
Tobin pointed to growing interest in “how the law grapples with technology,” from privacy concerns to cybersecurity.
“I think globally what you’re seeing is more of this intersection of technology and law,” he said.
Weich also said attorneys are being asked to work in teams with non-lawyers and to understand business practices, realities that are reflected in UB Law’s updated curriculum. He said that UB is known for producing “practice-ready graduates” and that he is in regular contact with alumni and legal employers to learn what skills they seek in new hires.
“We have a strong reputation for practical, excellent, rigorous legal education, and that reputation is well-deserved and our graduates validate it through their success,” he said.
Tobin said UM Carey wants to offer a variety of opportunity for students as well as real interactions with faculty, mentors and members of the local bar.
“Our students can come in and they can figure out what they’re sort of interested in and they can move in that direction,” he said. “What they get when they come here is people who care about them and their success.”