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By now, you probably know that people are about as excited about going to law school as enrolling in mortuary school—though the latter might offer more job security.

I’ve done so many posts about falling enrollment in law schools I can barely keep them straight. Just a few weeks ago, I reported about The National Jurist’s list of 25 law schools with the greatest drop in enrollment since 2010.

Now, the American Bar Association has come up with its own compilation based on enrollment figures from last year. The bottom line is that “132 of the 199 ABA-accredited law schools saw declines in their 1L classes, while eight schools saw no change in new enrollment,” reports The National Law Journal about the ABA’s findings.

As you’d expect, there is some overlap between the ABA and The National Jurist’s lists. The 13 schools where enrollment has dropped 30 percent or more last year, according to the ABA, are:

New England School of Law -47 percent

Washington & Lee -41

University of Iowa – 40

McGregor School of Law -37

Case Western Reserve -35

Thomas M. Cooley -35

University of Hawaii -35

Golden Gate -34

Quinnipiac -34

Hofstra -33

Florida A & M -32

Arizona Summit -31

Widener University at Harrisburg -30

You might think, as I did initially, that those declines are perfectly rational—a reflection that people are waking up to the realities of a shrinking job market, particularly for graduates of bottom ranking or non-ranked schools.

But here’s where logic runs into a snag: It’s not always the bottom-feeding law schools that are losing students. As reporter Karen Sloan notes in the NLJ, several schools that suffered big drops have decent rankings, including Washington & Lee University School of Law (26th-ranked), where 1L enrollment dropped 41 percent even though the school “has earned accolades for retooling its third-year curriculum to be more practical-skills oriented.” Moreover, notes the NLJ, 26th-ranked University of Iowa College of Law (it’s tied with Washington & Lee) saw enrollment drop 40 percent and 38th-ranked University of California, Davis School of Law by 25 percent.

What’s really crazy, though, is that some very weak law schools are actually picking up enrollment—sometimes by astounding numbers. Here are some schools that are enjoying an enrollment boom:

Inter American University of Puerto Rico (non-ranked) +64 percent

Mercer (ranked 105th) +44

Samford (ranked 113th) +43

Atlanta’s John Marshall (non-ranked) +30

Valparaiso U. (non-ranked) +28

So why are some low-ranked schools making gains in this tough marketplace while others suffer? Well, it’s a calculated choice. Jerome Organ writes in The Legal Whiteboard blog (as NLJ notes):

Over the last three years, few schools have had the luxury of being able to hold enrollment . . . and being able to hold profile [LSAT and GPA standards] . . . [A] number of schools have picked enrollment and made an effort to hold enrollment or come close to holding enrollment (and maintaining revenue) but at the expense of absorbing a significant decline in LSAT profile.

In other words, lower the standards and fill those seats! I guess that’s the sucker theory of the free economy system.
Not much to cheer about, except that opening the floodgates doesn’t always work. Legal Whiteboard says some schools “have experienced both significant declines in first-year enrollment (and the corresponding loss of revenue) and significant declines in profile.”
Let’s hope these bottom-scraping schools will cheapen their degrees so much that no one will buy.
Somehow, though, I’m not holding my breath.

E-mail: vchen@alm.com Twitter: https://twitter.com/lawcareerist