The Legal Beat
Are Law School Applications Bottoming Out? One School Sees A Remarkable Rise
Posted on Friday February 10, 2017
When it comes to the legal academy, it seems the patient is in critical but stable condition. After years of precipitous declines, law school applications are stabilizing or even turning around. In the 2015-2016 application cycle, applicants were up by 1.4 percent and applications were up by 1.9 percent over the prior year. And some industry experts, such as Mike Spivey of Spivey Consulting, predict another increase by the time the 2016-2017 cycle is done. (As of the start of this month, the LSAC numbers look mixed — applicants down a little, applications up a little — but the cycle is not yet over.)
Here’s one law school that will show a yuge increase in applicants this cycle: the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University. I heard from a source about a massive increase in applications at Hofstra Law, which I found, well, surprising (given the general woes of legal education as well as issues specific to Hofstra).
I reached out for comment to Judge Gail Prudenti, former Chief Administrative Judge of the Courts of New York State, who took over as Hofstra’s interim dean after the departure of Dean Eric Lane. I asked Judge Prudenti: are reports of major growth in applications at Hofstra Law accurate? And if so, how did Hofstra get applications to increase so bigly?
Here’s a (lightly edited and condensed) write-up of our conversation.
DL: I’ve heard through the grapevine of a gigantic increase in applications to Hofstra Law. If true, that would be quite interesting and newsworthy, especially given the current challenging climate for legal education. Is this accurate?
GP: Thank you for reaching out. I am delighted to share that, despite the current challenging legal climate, Hofstra Law has received nearly double the number of applications for its fall 2017 class than it had by this date last year (for fall 2016).
DL: Wow — very impressive! How did Hofstra achieve such a feat?
GP: I attribute this growth to a number of factors, including Hofstra Law’s improved employment statistics, a key area of concern for applicants; competitive scholarship offerings; and enhanced outreach strategy.
We also benefit from the rising reputation of Hofstra University, which recently hosted a Presidential Debate for the third consecutive time, opened a school of engineering and a school of medicine, and offers a thriving campus life.
DL: Congratulations! The factors you identify seem very important. But doubling applications is still really quite remarkable. So I have to ask — does the enhanced outreach strategy include either a waiver of application fees and/or gifts for any applicants? For example, I know of one law school that would give applicants 20 free iTunes downloads for applying, in addition to a fee waiver.
GP: While we do offer an application fee waiver, this is not a new incentive; it has been in place for eight years. We do not offer any gifts to applicants. We do encourage them to apply earlier to receive their admissions decision and scholarship information sooner. I believe two of the most significant factors for our application success have been communicating with prospective students earlier in the recruiting process and promoting our employment successes.
DL: In light of this large increase in applications, does Hofstra plan to increase the size of its entering class?
GP: While we are encouraged by the impressive credentials and accomplishments of our expanded applicant pool, Hofstra Law does not intend to increase the size of our entering class for fall 2017. Improving the credentials of the new class is one of our top priorities, along with ensuring that our students receive a quality education and the preparation that enables them to pass the bar on their first attempt and secure a rewarding job.
DL: A wise decision. Finding jobs for graduates is, in our view here at Above the Law, a law school’s top priority (and the most important factor in our law school rankings). Can you tell us a bit more about Hofstra’s efforts on that front?
GP: Over the past few years we have worked hard to enhance our Career Services offerings, with a focus on employment outreach for full-time, long-term, JD-required jobs. In fact, we have improved our employment statistics in this category each of the past four years, and have been recognized as a top three law school for improved employment rate from 2011-2015.
DL: Thank you for taking the time to chat, Judge Prudenti, and congratulations on Hofstra’s strong performance in this latest admissions cycle!
Hofstra Law Ranked 3rd Nationally for Most Improved Employment Rate [National Jurist via Hofstra Law]
David Lat is the founder and managing editor of Above the Law and the author of Supreme Ambitions: A Novel. He previously worked as a federal prosecutor in Newark, New Jersey; a litigation associate at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; and a law clerk to Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. You can connect with David on Twitter (@DavidLat), LinkedIn, and Facebook, and you can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.