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2 Minn. Law Schools, Hamline and William Mitchell, to Merge

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on February 19, 2015 8:10 AM

The law school bubble has claimed another victim. You'll remember that, last year, the self-appointed second-best law school in the country, Thomas M. Cooley School of Law (which is unranked by those barbarians at U.S. News), closed its Ann Arbor campus because of lagging enrollment.

Cooley, nevertheless, remained alive. In Minnesota, however, there will soon be one less ABA-accredited law school as Hamline University School of Law has announced it plans to merge with William Mitchell College of Law.

The First Time an ABA School Has Closed?

This is a first, Slate reported Wednesday, as no one at the ABA can remember two ABA law schools merging, let alone having an accredited law school close. The "merger" appears fairly one-sided, as Hamline's law program will be located at the William Mitchell campus and will be headed by William Mitchell's dean. So it's probably more accurate to say Hamline's law school is getting absorbed by William Mitchell.

Since 2011, each law school's enrollment has declined by about half in a market that was already saturated with four law schools. Both are fairly low performers in the U.S. News rankings, with Hamline at No. 121 and William Mitchell at No. 135. (Nearby University of Minnesota Law School, on the other hand, came in at No. 20.) In recent years, as law school enrollment has gone down, low-ranked institutions have felt most of the damage, as fewer LSAT takers mean that choosier schools are becoming less choosy, crowding out the traditionally least choosy schools (if you can get into U of Minnesota, why would you go to William Mitchell?).

It Won't Be the Last Time, Either

And yet, other law schools continue to exist. In spite of itself, the InfiLaw network of for-profit law schools -- consisting of Arizona Summit Law School, Charlotte School of Law, and Florida Coastal -- is still trucking along, even as it appeared the InfiLaw acquisition yielded less and less capable students in the search for profits.

Cooley's four other campuses -- three of which are in Michigan and one of which is in sunny Tampa, Florida -- are also still in business. But as the number of LSAT takers continues to decline, more and more low-ranking schools might merge, or even close. The halcyon days of 2010 are over.

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