National law school enrollment reaches 40 year low

Mahoney describes University effort to decrease student-faculty ratio


The Law School has maintained a spot within the top ten law schools in the country.

Scott Miles | Cavalier Daily

The number of first-year law students has reached its lowest national level since 1973, according to an American Bar Association report.

In the fall of 2014, only 37,924 first-year students entered the 204 ABA-approved law schools, a 4.4 percent decrease from 2013 and a 27.7 percent decrease from 2010’s all-time high.

Whereas the University Law School has also seen a decrease — with a current total enrollment of 1,005 students, down 88 students from an enrollment of 1,093 students in 2011 — Law School Dean Paul Mahoney attributes this decline not to national trends, but rather to an intentional effort to lower the student-faculty ratio to 10:1.

Mahoney said the Law School’s decrease in enrollment has been part of a plan developed four years ago to reduce the target class size. This year’s entering class of 307 students, compared to the older average class size of 360 students, he said, is a step towards a goal class size of 300 students.

“We made the decision [to reduce the class size] in order to compete more effectively with the nation’s other elite law schools,” Mahoney said in an email. “When we were substantially larger than [the median entering class size among the top ten law schools of 280], our student-faculty ratio was one of the highest in our peer group.”

The Law School’s target student-faculty ratio is typical among peer institutions, he said.

Mahoney also said the Law School is still receiving a large number of high-quality applications, and the competition to enter the Law School has heightened as the number of available spots has dwindled.

“We still have many more high-quality applicants than we can accept — last year, we received 5,233 applications, or 17 for each seat in the entering class,” Mahoney said. “The competition for the very top applicants has become tougher as the number of applications has decreased.”

Nevertheless, Law School graduates still typically find success upon entering the job market. According to the Law School’s Career Services web site, 97.8 percent of 2013 graduates are employed, and the Law School has alumni in 99 of the American Lawyer top 100 firms.

Mahoney said Law School graduates are entering a favorable workplace.

“The national entry-level job market for lawyers has improved in each year since 2011,” Mahoney said. “U.Va. Law graduates are very successful in that market.”

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