As law school applications decline, organizations seek alternative ways to attract the next generation of lawyers. Among the deterrents to the potential applicant pool are financial concerns and job opportunity.
A recent New York Times article notes that “the number of law school applicants has decreased 20% within the past year,” based on a study by the Law School Admission Council. The rising cost of tuition has been noted as a contributing factor in the decline. Last month, in the state of New York, officials met to discuss a proposed rule change that would allow students to take the bar exam after two years of law school. The subtraction of the now-mandatory third year would result in a decrease in tuition, which could make law school more accessible to potential students.
While New York addresses potential financial concerns, farther north in Canada, DuPont GC Ernest Tuckett is setting his sights on another challenge to the future of the legal industry: job opportunities for minorities. Tuckett, who recently transitioned to Canada from the DuPont offices in the United States, feels diversity in the legal profession is a topic that should not be overlooked when discussing incoming lawyers. Tuckett’s approach to addressing the ongoing issue and concern regarding diversity involves both mentoring and community outreach. According to a recent article in Canadian Lawyer Magazine, Tuckett plans to launch a program in Canada similar to the Corporate Legal Diversity Pipeline program in the United States — an alliance between ACC and Street Law, which partners corporate legal departments with local high school law classes.
The Corporate Legal Pipeline Diversity Program offers a glimpse into the legal profession, thus encouraging students to consider it as a viable career option. According to a recent survey of over 1,100 chief legal officers, 95 percent of respondents noted that they did not have a formal pro bono program at their law department. For smaller legal departments, a shortage of staffing and resources created challenges in developing a pro bono program. Initiatives such as the Corporate Legal Diversity Pipeline program are not only beneficial to students but also to legal departments without a pro bono program that are interested in contributing to the growth of the next generation of lawyers.
Corporate programs and provisions to current rules shed light on the trending regression of law school applicants. With the focus seemingly on high school and undergraduate students, as the next generation of lawyers emerge over the next five to ten years, success will be measured by a turnaround in law school applicants with a diverse pool of candidates.