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Responding to the reality that the toughest job market for new lawyers in 20 years may be the new normal for the foreseeable future, law schools are taking unprecedented steps to course correct. According to Kaplan Test Prep’s 2012 survey of law school admissions officers*, 51% of law schools have cut the size of the entering class; 63% said the reason was the contraction of the job market in the legal industry. And more cuts may be on the way; of the law schools that have not cut the size of their entering classes, 28% say they will likely do so for the current application cycle.
The Kaplan survey also finds that 68% of law schools have already revamped their curriculum to make their students more “practice ready”; 5% say they’ve decided to so, but haven’t implemented the changes yet; 9% say they are considering making curriculum changes; and 18% say they have no plans to make curriculum changes. Among the curriculum changes some schools have made or are considering making: more clinical work opportunities and giving students more opportunities to specialize in a specific field, which can give them a competitive edge in a field that values specialization.
“With the supply of new lawyers outpacing the available number of positions for new lawyers, this is the most critical time for legal education in decades. Our survey shows that law schools are taking much-needed action to better prepare new lawyers for the changing job landscape, while at the same time accepting fewer students, as they know jobs will not be easy to come by," said Jeff Thomas, director of pre-law programs, Kaplan Test Prep.
In some good news for applicants, Kaplan’s survey finds that compared to the 2011-2012 cycle, 47% of law schools have actually increased the amount of financial aid they have been able to provide students for the 2012-2013 cycle; 41% say they kept their level of financial aid at last year’s levels.