ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A steep decline in applications at the University of New Mexico’s School of Law is forcing the school to reevaluate its future and put faculty expansion on hold, university officials announced this week.
The school’s new dean, David Herring, is conducting a strategic planning process after the university saw a nearly 50 percent drop in applications in six years, the Albuquerque Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1eal8rt).
Numbers provided to the Journal show the UNM law school has had a drop in applications from 1,200 in 2007 to about 650 this year.
According to UNM provost Chaouki Abdallah, the decline in enrollment, along with a shrinking law workforce, has administrators looking at different ways the law school should transform.
“We’re monitoring this very carefully. Our law school is very different from most law schools. . We didn’t grow as much as others,” Abdallah said.
The school has about 30 tenure and tenure-track faculty members and about 20 other professors and instructors.
Abdallah said the school’s limited growth has helped it do well in a time when other law schools have had to shrink faculty size due to declining enrollments.
UNM has not had to resort to that but is being cautious this year about hiring faculty, Herring said.
Herring, who began his tenure as dean this month, said the school will fill two vacant positions with visiting professors instead of permanent faculty. It also does not plan on hiring additional faculty.
“In terms of the market for lawyers, it’s starting to come back a little bit slowly, so that’s a good thing in terms of our applicants finding employment. But the application pool is decreasing, so that’s putting a lot of pressure,” Herring said.
In general, UNM law grads have had less trouble finding work than students from other schools. For example, 70 percent of the 103 UNM law school graduates in 2011 had jobs that required a law degree upon graduation.
That’s in large part because of the school’s focus on New Mexico issues, Abdallah said. Many of the school’s graduates stay in New Mexico and work in the public sector, he said.