The New York Times
July 12, 2015
Shelley Friedman, 21, who recently started a two-year program at Brooklyn Law School, is not too concerned about how she will fare in the job market after she earns her degree — and not just because she won’t begin looking for work until she approaches graduation in May 2017. She is simply confident about her prospects.
But she also knows that — just in case — the school is prepared to provide her with a safety net of sorts.
Beginning with students entering this year — whether in two-, three- or four-year programs — Brooklyn Law School is offering to repay 15 percent of total tuition costs to those who have not found full-time jobs nine months after graduating. That, according to school officials, is how long it typically takes graduates to get such jobs and, if necessary, to obtain the requisite licenses.
“Knowing you have a little extra security is very comforting and helpful,” said Ms. Friedman, who is from Fair Lawn, N.J.
The introduction of the program, called Bridge to Success, comes as law school graduates across the country face increasing competition in a depressed job market that is only slowly recovering from the economic downturn.
“This builds on the overall approach that we’ve taken to be very student-centric, to listen to what students need,” said Nicholas W. Allard, dean of Brooklyn Law School. He said it was the school’s strong financial standing, including an endowment of $133 million as of May, that made the program possible.
During the recession, the legal sector — which is not confined to lawyers — shed about 60,000 jobs, and only about 20,000 have been added back, said James G. Leipold, executive director of the National Association for Law Placement, citing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Among the lawyers affected by the cuts, those with two to three years of experience were hit particularly hard, said David P. Miranda, president of the New York State Bar Association. As a result, he said, recent law school graduates have found themselves competing for work not only with classmates, but also with seasoned lawyers. The difficulty in finding jobs appears to have discouraged some people from pursuing legal careers, he added.
Indeed, law school enrollment across the country dropped 30 percent over the past four years, Mr. Leipold said.
Cost is another concern. In 2013, according to Law School Transparency, a nonprofit research group, the average tuition at private, American Bar Association-approved schools was $41,985. Ms. Friedman said she knew people who had decided against applying to law school because of the high tuition.
Some law schools, including those at the University of Iowa, Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, and Pace University in White Plains, have responded by lowering their tuition.
Last year Brooklyn Law School, which had a total enrollment of 1,117 in the 2014-15 academic year, reduced its tuition by 15 percent, so that students entering this year pay $43,237 on average per year.
“I can’t even tell you what a relief that is,” Ms. Friedman said.
Now, with the tuition-reimbursement plan, the school is offering her and other new students additional financial relief.
To qualify, students must take the bar exam after graduating, though they need not pass it. They must also demonstrate that they have actively searched for full-time work and have made use of the school’s career resources.
The 15 percent reimbursement applies only to out-of-pocket tuition expenses, including loan payments; scholarships and grants are not covered.
Mr. Allard, the school’s dean, explained that the program was meant to motivate students to seek out career resources on campus and to give them time to seek a job they want, rather than settle for the first option that comes along because of financial pressure.
“It’s really recognition that the one size fits all of conventional legal education is no longer going to work or should be working,” he said.
Though not eligible for the program, Jared Brenner, 25, a recent Brooklyn Law School graduate with a job offer from a large firm to do transactional work for start-up companies, believed it would encourage students to take risks after leaving school.
Brooklyn Law School graduates could pursue their passion, he said, knowing that the school would provide some financial relief if that pursuit proved fruitless.
Mr. Leipold, of the law placement association, said Brooklyn Law School’s program struck him as unusual, though he noted that other law schools were trying different ways to help students navigate a challenging job market. “It’s a time of experimentation and risk-taking for law schools,” he said.
A more common approach, he said, was for schools to finance fellowships for students, often at nonprofits, to help them gain experience until they can find full-time jobs. Such programs can, however, be expensive for the schools, he added.
For Brian Hoffman, 25, who, like Ms. Friedman, has started a two-year program at Brooklyn Law School, the tuition-reimbursement program provides some reassurance.
“It’s something that I hope I don’t have to bank on,” he said, “but it’s nice to have.”
An article on Monday about an offer by Brooklyn Law School to repay 15 percent of tuition costs to those who have not found full-time jobs nine months after graduating gave outdated information about David P. Miranda s position at the New York State Bar Association. He is its president, not president-elect. (He took office on June 1.) The article also misidentified the location of the Pace University School of Law. It is in White Plains, not in Manhattan.