The closing of 4-year-old Indiana Tech Law School in Fort Wayne, and the revelation that 138-year-old Valparaiso University Law School faced an uncertain future, made law school troubles the top legal news story of 2017, as determined by the staff of Indiana Lawyer. Changes on the federal and state bench also were among the year's top stories.
With a 138-year history, Valparaiso Law School is not the only legal education institution getting crushed by declining enrollment and falling revenue, but it is likely the oldest to publicly announce its future is uncertain.
It was initially supposed to just be a stress-relieving exercise. Justin Vining, a 2010 graduate of Valparaiso University Law School, was feeling the pressure of being a full-time law student, so he picked up a brush and some paint and poured his anxieties out onto a blank canvas. But then something happened — Vining’s paintings began to sell.
As the Class of 2020 begins its legal studies and the Class of 2018 prepares for the bar exam and life as a lawyer, many will probably thinking about their financial security, debt and loan obligations. More than 85 percent of law students borrow, running up a tab that can flow to astronomical amounts.
The lack of racial and ethnic diversity continues to frustrate law schools and the entire legal profession. Within Indiana, the students at the four law schools remain primarily white and male, according to the American Bar Association’s 2017 Standard 509 reports.
Three of Indiana’s four law schools have shrunk in recent years but the gender and racial profiles have remained fairly steady since 2015, according to the recently released in the Fall 2017 Standard 509 Reports from the American Bar Association.
Although nationally the number of 1L students starting law school in the 2017 fall semester increased, the 2017 first-year class enrolled Indiana’s four law schools declined by nearly 100 students compared to the class that began in 2016.
Valparaiso University president Mark Heckler emphasized the law school is not closing after it announced Thursday it would suspend admission of students in 2018. However, the American Bar Association still may want a teach-out plan as is required of law schools that are ceasing operations.
Valparaiso Law School is denying a newspaper report that it is planning to cease enrolling students and close. However, “severe financial challenges” are forcing the northwestern Indiana law school to suspend admission of students for the fall of 2018.
Given today’s political climate, nowhere is the interplay between politics and law more salient than in immigration law. If you are an advocate for a refugee, or represent someone seeking citizenship or asylum, part of the work is understanding the political ramifications of what you are trying to do.
As classes begin again, Valparaiso University Law School is standing apart from other Indiana law schools as it welcomes an incoming 1L class of just 28 students, 73 percent smaller than the class that entered last year.
A few months before law schools around the country begin a new academic year, the number of people applying for admission has slipped, with the greatest decline coming from applicants posting the highest LSAT scores.