Law school bucks enrollment trends09/01/2015
The number of incoming first year JD students at The University of Akron School of Law rose 26 percent this fall in comparison with the previous year. This increase goes against a national trend of substantial declines in law school enrollments. The American Bar Association (ABA) reported that in 2014 the number of first year law students reached its lowest national level since 1973, even with 53 more ABA-approved law schools in existence. The Law School Admission Council reports that law school applicants declined again this year. At this pace, the number of people who applied to law school for the Fall 2015 semester will hit its lowest level in 15 years, according to Bloomberg Business.
But that’s not the story at The University of Akron School of Law. Dean Matthew Wilson, with just one year at the helm, is proud that the school is bucking that trend.
Value attracts attention
“Interest in Akron Law has grown across Ohio, the nation, and even the world over the past year,” said Dean Wilson. Solid career prospects, cutting-edge programs, innovative offerings, and increased focus on international matters contributed to a significant increase in resident and non-resident students for 2015.
“You get a lot of bang for your buck at Akron Law,” declares Wilson. “Not only are we consistently ranked as a ‘Best Value’ with annual tuition under $25,000 for both Ohio residents and out-of-state students, but also our strong employment placement, solid bar exam pass rates, and high student satisfaction have contributed to our success.” These metrics have resulted in a tier one ranking by Above the Law and recognition from The National Jurist of our bar examination performance, clinics, and value. Akron Law has also been honored with national awards for its clinical programs and trial team performance.
Recent initiatives, unique academic programs have drawn in students
Before new students even attend their first class, Akron Law offers comprehensive academic workshops and online materials designed to ensure success. Participation in the pre-law school workshops increased this year and involved over 85 percent of the incoming class.
New this year is guaranteed scholarships for incoming students. While many law schools offer conditional scholarships based on a student maintaining a certain GPA, Wilson says that all students entering Akron Law this year have received admissions scholarships, which are guaranteed throughout the duration of their legal education. He states, “I firmly believe in investing in our law students and providing them with financial certainty during their law school careers.”
Akron Law’s nationally acclaimed advocacy, trial, and moot court programs received a boost this year with the addition of a Summer Trial Academy. Developed by Professor Dana Cole and Dean Wilson, the Academy draws upon the expertise of over 20 prominent lawyers and judges who work hand-in-hand with students over an intensive two-week period on developing the tools necessary to succeed in the world of litigation. With over 160 law students participating in the program, the inaugural trial academy concluded on August 28th when 16 law students conducted mock jury trials in front of four sitting judges at Summit County Common Pleas Court.
Across the globe
Akron Law’s recent internationalization efforts have been noticeable as well. In addition to a new dean and new faculty with substantial international experience, Akron Law is in the process of rolling out an innovative dual-country study abroad program in Asia, new cross-border course offerings, and other international programming. Five international students from Italy, Brazil, Ghana, Jamaica and India have committed to the new two-year Juris Doctor Degree Program for students with a foreign law degree – the only program like it in the state. The program enables foreign lawyers to transfer credits from a law degree obtained outside of the United States toward a JD degree at Akron Law.
Success after graduation
Strong employment placement, solid bar exam pass rates, and high student satisfaction have contributed to the success of Akron Law students upon graduation. Wilson concludes, “We constantly invest resources to jumpstart our students’ careers, including providing assistance in passing the bar exam.” Akron Law’s pass rate for first-time takers on the Ohio bar exam consistently exceeds the statewide first-time taker pass rate and included a first place finish for the February 2015 exam. “Our quality teaching during law school and bar preparation course fellowships after law school help make success attainable for all of our graduates,” explains Wilson. The bar fellowships provide every graduating student with several thousand dollars to use toward a commercial bar review course.
First-year law student Nick Kappra (right) chats with Dean Wilson in between classes on his first day of law school.