The recession, technologies offering low-cost legal services and shrinking demand for lawyers are all behind University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law tumbling in a ranking of its peers, a school official said.
U.S. News & World Report this week ranked McGeorge in a tie for 124th place in the nation, down from 101st last year.
Jay Mootz, dean of Sacramento-based McGeorge, said the drop in rankings is largely due to a decline in student applications and the resulting hit to average Law School Admission Test scores.
"The law school applications have plummeted both this year and last year," he said. "This is nationwide, and it is particularly acute in California."
In fact, no California law school gained in the magazine's annual rankings, and several, besides McGeorge, were knocked down several notches, Mootz said.
The law school has responded by reducing its enrollment, both for full- and part-time students.
"We have shrunk our evening program and the day program," he said. "We are focused on being the appropriate size for the market."
It's not alone. Northwestern announced this week it would cut its enrollment by 10 percent, according to news reports. That follows cuts at other institutions, including George Washington University and the Hastings College of the Law at the University of California, Berkeley.
The schools are really responding to economic and technological forces, Mootz said.
"Legal practice is really undergoing severe stresses and changes," he said. "There's a heightened focus on heightening productivity and lowering the costs of legal services."
Some of that came out of the Great Recession as corporations, organizations and others sought to reduce legal costs, trimming in-house staffing and outsourcing work. Also, he said, individual consumers of legal services are increasingly turning to Web-based services.
"There are just a lot of economic pressures on legal practice that lawyers will have to face in the future," Mootz said.
The dean, who joined the law school in June, said he planned changes in the curriculum to adapt to those changes. They include incorporating more technology and management courses to better prepare his students for the future.
"Lawyers are going to build these technological approaches to law that we see," Mootz said.
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