Recent reports from the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) indicate that law school applications for Fall 2014 have decreased for more than 86% of the traditional ABA law schools across the country. These numbers are following a trend that was seen nationally for the two previous academic years. It is too early to know how MCL will fare this year, because our admission cycle starts, and ends, about two-months later than the traditional ABA law schools. (We will continue to take regular applications through the end of May and late applications through the end of July.) However, last year we experienced a 20% increase in admissions during a period when the national trend was a 20% decrease.
I have been asked why MCL seems to be avoiding the declines being experienced in other law schools. Of course, since each law school and community is different, there is no way to know the exact reason. However, there are a number of factors that I think reflect positively on MCL and are likely to be influencing new applicants.
First, MCL has been able to control our tuition increase and maintain a unique guaranteed tuition policy. At a tuition cost of less than $70,000 for the completed degree, MCL is less than one-half the cost of many of the large traditional ABA law schools in California. Furthermore, we believe that we are still the only law school in California that guarantees that a student’s tuition rate will not increase during their tenure at MCL.
Second, as an evening program, most of our students also work during the day, creating the opportunity for them to pay-as-they-go and minimize the need for large student loans. It is common for our students to start working in law firms while they are in law school, providing practical experience and an early jump on job opportunities.
Finally, MCL has a history of taking a more practical vs. philosophical approach to legal education. All of our faculty are practicing lawyers and judges who are expected to bring their practical experience into the classroom. In addition, MCL has expanded our student clinical workshops and externship programs to provide every student the opportunity to participate in practical skills training prior to graduation.
As a small, regional law school, I know that we don’t necessarily face the same market challenges that are found in the large urban areas. However, I would like to think that our ongoing success reflects in some large part the values that come from being a community-supported law school with strong roots in the local bench and bar.