ABA-approved law schools reported a 39 percent increase in enrollment in non-J.D. programs from 2005 to 2012 and a 52 percent increase from 2000 to 2012, according to data provided to the section.
Preliminary data released by the ABA in November show that first-year enrollment in J.D. programs fell by 8 percent between 2005 and 2012. First-year enrollment in J.D. programs was 1 percent higher in 2012 than in 2000.
Total enrollment in J.D. programs was 11 percent higher in 2012 than in 2000 but fell slightly between 2005 and 2012.
Non-J.D. degree programs are designed both for students who have already earned the first professional degree in law, and for nonlawyers. LL.M.s, for example, allow law graduates to develop expertise in a particular practice area, such as taxation, intellectual property or health law. An LL.M. degree can also provide foreign law graduates with an overview of the American legal system.
Law schools also offer non-J.D. degree programs for nonlawyer professionals. Students enroll in one-year full-time or two-year part-time programs to learn basic concepts of law and the legal and regulatory environments of their fields.
Non-J.D. programs do not require approval under the ABA law school accreditation process. Rather, ABA-approved law schools that plan to offer a non-J.D. program are required to show that the program does not interfere with the school’s ability to operate its approved J.D. program in a manner that meets the ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools.
“Law schools see a demand for non-J.D. programs both for lawyers who want to develop expertise through an LL.M. and in business and professional communities where knowledge of the relevant law and process is valuable,” said Barry Currier, the ABA’s interim consultant on legal education. “And as the demand for J.D. degrees slackens, schools are exploring other ways to broaden their revenue base.”
Preliminary enrollment data comes from the questionnaires that all ABA-approved law schools must file annually with the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. Further information — including the verified and exact number of enrolled students, undergraduate grade-point average and LSAT data, broken down by school — will be released in the spring of 2013.
Non-J.D. enrollment at ABA-approved law schools
- 2000: 7,291
- 2005: 7,976
- 2012: 11,067
First-year enrollment at ABA-approved law schools
- 2000: 43,518
- 2005: 48,132
- 2012: 44,518
Total J.D. enrollment at ABA-approved law schools
- 2000: 125,173
- 2005: 140,298
- 2012: 139,262
The council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar and its accreditation committee are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the national accrediting agency for programs leading to the J.D. The section’s 14,000 members strive to improve legal education and lawyer licensing by fostering cooperation among legal educators, practitioners and judges through workshops, conferences and publications. The section also studies and makes recommendations for the improvement of the bar admission process.
With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.