Law school enrollment and law education topics

Some interesting research paper topics for your law class are to discuss the declining number of college students taking the LSAT test, declining enrollment in law schools, and new teaching methods in law schools.

Does this describe your law school life? (Credit: Pinterest)

Does this describe your law school life? (Credit: Pinterest)

Continue reading to learn more about each of these concepts.

Decline in law school enrollment

A good term paper topic is to discuss the trend of declining law school enrollment. Over the last thirty years there has been a decline in students taking the LSAT test and entering law school. In 2013, just under 46,000 students applied to law schools, compared with 77,000 in 2010 and 90,000 in 2004, according to the Law School Admission Council. The financial recession of 2008 is still a factor as some law firms that had to lay off lawyers have not recovered their numbers, leading to fewer openings for newly graduated lawyers. In addition, many students today are not eager to amass six-digit debt for attending law school.

If enrollment keeps declining, Emory University School of Law professor Dorothy Brown predicts that a top law school would close in three years if institutions maintained the status quo. She said in “Law schools are in a death spiral. Maybe now they’ll finally change,” posted in the Washington Post March 9, 2015: “No law school has figured out how to handle the new normal of legal education: the lowest number of applicants in four decades; fewer legal jobs for graduates…While some argue that going to law school is still a safe bet, little evidence exists to support this position.”

Drop the theory and add practical experience

Another interesting research paper topic is to discuss new requirements for teaching today’s law students in preparation for work in a changing global market. Some lawyers and law firms have criticized law schools for teaching too much theory and not enough practice. It’s so bad that some law firms feel they need to extend training to newly graduated law students by offering months of practical training before new hires can work with clients. In response, Penn State Dickinson School of Law had declared that it will now focus on “producing practice-ready lawyers for a competitive, global market,” according to Charles Thompson in “Law School Aims for ‘Practice-Ready’ Lawyers,” posted in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette September 7, 2014.

For its 2014/15 school year, Dickinson will provide students with job-specific training by embedding classes with experiential learning. Students will be expected to lead an intake interview for a new client, participate in a legal services clinic, serve in an internship with a government agency or nonprofit organization, conduct project management, and work in a practice-in-residence program.

Through participation like this, students can specialize in various legal professions, such as public interest advocate, criminal prosecutor or defender, or business adviser. “This is an effort to guide students in their elective class choices,” said Interim Dean Gary Gildin. “In a tougher legal marketplace, it will help them go into that marketplace with maximum ammunition as to their qualifications.”

Teaching law in the digital age

Another term paper topic is to discuss how the teaching of law has changed over the years. Law is a subject that has been taught for millennia. But in today’s digital age, there is debate among traditional law professors and the more progressive on how best to teach young students who are digital natives (people who have grown up with digital media). Older professors eschew signs of digital encroachment, such as laptops and smartphones in the classroom. Yet today’s law students are visual learners who thrive when taught with PowerPoint and other electronic media, compared with traditional print.

In the academic paper, “Teaching the Digital Caveman: Rethinking the Use of Classroom Technology in Law School,” by James B. Levy in Chapman Law Review, he suggests that law professors “reject popular stereotypes and clichés about digital natives and look instead to learning science for a more objective understanding about how our students really learn.” Levy advocates for making better use of popular classroom techniques that promote critical thinking skills that enhance legal education.

For more information, check out Questia’s library on Legal Education. 

If you are in law school or considering law school, we welcome your tips and advice in the comments.

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