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Declining Law School Enrollments

Law School enrollments have declined sharply in the past few years. I find it interesting to compare this decline in enrollment with the increase in enrollment in the Computer and Information Sciences.

Declines and Increases

Quoting from Olson and Segal (12/17/2014):

Enrollment numbers of first-year law students have sunk to levels not seen since 1973, when there were 53 fewer law schools in the United States, according to the figures just released by the American Bar Association. The 37,924 full- and part-time students who started classes in 2014 represent a 30 percent decline from just four years ago, when enrollment peaked at 52,488.

Quoting from Steed (3/8/2013):

The number of new undergraduate computing majors among U.S. computer science departments rose an astonishing 29.2 percent this year, according to new data released today by the Computing Research Association (CRA).

Overall Ph.D. production in computing programs reported in the survey reached its highest level ever, with 1,929. This represents an 8.2 percent increase over 2010-11. Among those departments reporting both this year and last year, the number of total doctoral degrees increased by 5.2 percent. More than 55 percent of those new degree holders took jobs in industry, with the remainder finding academic or government positions, or self-employment. Only 0.4 percent reported unemployment. The survey also found that bachelor’s degree production in computing fields increased by 19.8 percent overall, and 16.6 percent among those departments that reported both years.

I don’t find the increases in computer science enrollments to be at all surprising. Each discipline is being affected by the growing capabilities of computers to help represent and solve its problems. In education, for example, the “problem” of providing instruction to students is being increasingly addressed by the use of computer-assisted learning and MOOCs.

In business, one of the goals is to develop products and sales techniques that will increase profits. Businesses are collecting huge amounts of data about their customers and the analysis of this Big Data has become a big business. Robots are significantly increasing the productivity of individual workers. This increases the demand for workers who have computer knowledge and skills, and decreases the demand for those whose jobs can be partially or completely done by robots.

Why the Decline in Law School Enrollment

Quoting from Olson and Segal (12/17/2014), the decline in Law School enrollment is occurring because:

A year of tuition can cost $44,000, even at schools that are ranked low on the U.S. News & World Report list. A diploma at a top-rated school, like Harvard, will cost an additional $10,000 or more annually.

That would seem a worthy investment if the job market awaiting new law school graduates looked more promising. But the bar association’s employment figures are dismal. In 2013, fewer than two-thirds of newly minted lawyers had found jobs that required passing the bar exam.

Part of the problem is that jobs that once required lawyers — for sifting through documents before a trial, for instance — are increasingly being automated. Do-it-yourself services, like LegalZoom, are gaining popularity with consumers.

 “There’s also outsourcing,” Professor Campos said. “India has millions of people who speak English perfectly well and they can handle basic legal work. The only segment of the market that isn’t affected is the elite firms, the Wachtell Liptons of the world. But that represents a very tiny slice of the market.”

In summary, lawyers in the United States are facing competition through outsourcing and through the growing capabilities of computers, so the number of job openings is declining. The costs of Law School are high, prompting many quite capable potential Law School students to choose other fields of study.

I also found the following statement quite interesting (Olson and Segal, 12/17/2014):

“In any other industry, there would be consolidation, more reductions in work force, but we don’t do those things,” said William D. Henderson of Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law. “Students see the debt they will need to take on, but they don’t see the product changing. We still train people in the artisan craft of lawyering that is in decline.”

Educational Implications

Please reread William Henderson’s last sentence quoted above. Think of it not only in terms of the education of lawyers, but in all of education.

If you are a preservice or inservice teacher—or a teacher of these students—think carefully about the changes in teaching that are coming down the pike. By next fall, several of the major publishing companies will be offering interactive online versions of their K-12 curriculum. MOOCS are continuing to prosper, and some are making their way into the precollege curriculum. An increasing number of free or relatively inexpensive Computer Apps that run on the rapidly growing number of tablet computers are now available to students. Each year, more students enter school with considerable facility in making use of these tablet computers and voice-activated information retrieval systems.

My message is that there are large components of our educational system that are outdated and are open to the same criticism that William Henderson leveled at lawyering education.

What You Can Do

Think of education as continuing along the same o’, same o’ pathway. If that seems right to you, then you certainly don’t want to rock the boat. If it seems wrong to you, examine what you are doing to become an educator of the future who helps to determine where we are going and helps to implement plans of how we will get there. These are very interesting and challenging times for our world’s educational systems.


Olson, E., & Segal, D. (12/17/2014). A steep slide in Law School enrollments accelerates. The New York Times. Retrieved 12/20/2014 from

Steed, S. (3/8/2013). Undergrad Computer Science enrollments rise for fifth straight year – CRA Taulbee Report. Computing Research Policy Blog. Retrieved 12/20/2014 from See more detailed information at

Thiboudeau, P. (4/25/2013). Computer science enrollments rise 29% in 20011-2012. ComputerWorld. Retrieved 12/20/2014 from

Readings from IAE Publications

Moursund, D. (11/14/2014). What makes a great teacher? IAE Blog. Retrieved 12/21/2014 from

Moursund, D. (9/18/2014). Disruptive innovations in education. IAE Blog. Retrieved 12/21/2014 from

Moursund, D. (8/10/2014). Four parables about educational reform. IAE Blog. Retrieved 12/21/2014 from

Moursund, D. (2014). Empowering learners and teachers. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 12/21/2014 from

Moursund, D. (2014). What the future is bringing us. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 12/21/2014 from

Moursund, D. (2014). Computational thinking. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 12/21/2014 from

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Tuesday, 14 July 2020

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