U Law School cuts down on admissions amid applicant lull

The school has seen the largest decline in applicants among the top 20 schools.

by Aaron Job

Following a decline in applicants, the University of Minnesota Law School announced earlier this month that it will admit fewer students. 

Amid the decision to cut admissions, the school has announced a new program designed to bolster Law School students’ career opportunities. The changes come at a time of nationwide decline in law school applicants — down 38 percent from 2010. 

As schools see fewer applications, they must decide whether to lower standards and maintain class sizes or cut admissions in an attempt to preserve their school’s ranking, said Judith Areen, executive director and CEO of the American Association of Law Schools. 

Law School Dean David Wippman, who will step down from his position in July, said he decided to lower the acceptance rate and become more selective in order to preserve the school’s ranking.

“Minnesota is not unusual in the sense that this is a trend that’s being felt all over the country,” Areen said. “Minnesota has made a conscious decision that they want to maintain standards.” 

At the University, the Law School accepted 716 of 2,509 applicants in 2004, according to a report from BCG Attorney Search, an attorney recruiting firm. In 2016, the University accepted 174 of 1,978 applicants. 

This year, the school slid in its U.S. News and World Report ranking from 20th in the U.S. to 22nd and has seen one of the largest declines in applicants among the top 20 law schools. 

“I fully support the Law School’s strategic efforts to maintain the Law School’s standing, student credentials and maintain faculty quality,” said incoming Law School Dean Garry Jenkins. “That’s what students, alumni and employers expect from leading law schools.”

The residency program

Next school year, the University’s Law School will unveil a program that places high-achieving, third-year students in various public interest organizations and guarantees employment with the same group for one year post-graduation.

But Mitchell Noordyke, a law student and president of the University Business Law Association, said he’s skeptical of the program’s ability to produce reliable jobs for students. 

“What I’m interested to see [is] what the percentages will be of the number of people who continue beyond that one year time [and] how many people end up with a permanent position,” he said. ”I can see the obvious benefit to [the] Law School. … Now there would be a handful of students who will be designated as having employment … which has a huge impact on the law school rank.”

U.S. News and World Report ranks law schools on several tenants, including reputation among peers as well as among judges and lawyers, median LSAT admission scores and post-graduation employment statistics, according to its website. 

Wippman said in the past 30 or 40 years the opening of more law schools flooded the market with lawyers. 

“Eventually we reached a point where there was too much of an imbalance between supply and demand,” Wippman said.

Between his first and second year of law school, Noordyke completed his master of science and data degree from Carlson School of Management. He said he did so in an attempt to create a niche for himself due to the challenging job prospects lawyers face. 

“I’m not going to be the best lawyer, and I’m not going to be the best data scientist. But I’m probably going to be one of the best data-scientist lawyers,” he said.