Ole Miss law school softens blow from declining enrollment

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OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — The University of Mississippi School of Law's first-year enrollment has dropped from 199 in 2010, to 156 in 2012 and just 127 students this year.

The decrease was intentional.

Officials began reducing their class sizes at a time when a recovering economy and improving job market began to lure potential students away from law school.

"We were much more concerned about placement. If we had a large class that impacts the profession in a negative way when the market isn't real strong for lawyers. What we've found by getting smaller is placement percentages have gone up," law school dean Richard Gershon told The Sun Herald (http://bit.ly/1BbQGd5 ).

Last year, about 85 percent of the law school graduates had a job in the legal field nine months after graduation, Gershon said.

Fewer students, though, require fewer faculty and staff.

Those who retire aren't being replaced, Gershon said. The school hasn't had to use any retirement incentives or lay-offs. It's been helped by the strength of the University of Mississippi as a whole, Gershon said. The undergraduate programs have seen record high enrollment in recent years.

Others haven't been so lucky.

The Louisiana State University Law Center is offering an incentive to seven professors if they retire next summer, a move that could save $1.12 million a year.

Gershon expects to keep classes at low levels. The school has about 400 students now, down from 530, and Gershon said 400-425 is an ideal college size.

"Most law schools are getting smaller," Gershon said. "The market is hard to predict. I don't know that we'll see that but in some ways in makes sense because the economy is getting better and every school is getting smaller."

He said potential students are thinking harder about whether they really want to practice law, rather than using school as a buffer against the job market.

"One thing I've found that keeps me optimistic is that people applying, getting in and going to law school really want to be in law school," Gershon said.


Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com

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