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In the wake of declining enrollments at law schools across the country, Whittier Law School will become the first ABA-accredited law school to close its doors to new students.
According to reports, Whittier trustees voted not to enroll new first-year students in the fall and to start shutting down the program. They had explored other possibilities, including merging or selling to other entities, but decided closing was their only option.
"We believe we have looked at every realistic option to continue a successful law program," said Alan Lund, the board's chairman said in a statement. "Unfortunately, these efforts did not lead to a desired outcome."
Then There Were 400
The law school, based in Costa Mesa, California, said it is "committed to ensuring that students currently enrolled will have an opportunity to complete their degree in a timely fashion." There are about 400 students at the law school.
Whittier officials did not say when the school will cease operations, and did not explain how the students will complete their degrees. "We don't know how that will occur," said spokesman Marc Stevens. "We are going to do whatever it takes."
While Whittier is the first fully accredited school to close, other law schools nationwide have suspended admissions, merged or announced plans to shut down. California Southern Law School, an unaccredited school, announced its closure last year.
Begging of the End
Whittier, which opened in Los Angeles in 1966, became part of Whittier College. The law school moved into a new building in Costa Mesa in 1997.
The law school ran into trouble during the past 10 years, however, as law schools generally struggled with lost revenue from declining enrollments and compensated by lowering admission standards. Whittier suffered more set-backs as the school disclosed poor bar pass rates and fewer job placements.
In 2015, the Orange County Register reported that Whittier graduates found jobs at half the national average for law schools. In 2016, only 22 percent of first-time takers passed the California bar exam.