I didn't go today (I knew I'd be late and the pizza would be gone), but I went to the student leaders meeting yesterday where he outlined a lot of what he'd say. Now that he's addressed the school, I'll share a few of the highlights:
Employment- Overall, things are looking up. As you guys have already noticed, around 1/4 of the c/o 2012 landed big firms or clerkships, up from the year before. I think he said around 70% of the c/o 2012 is in J.D.-required, full-time, permanent, non-school funded jobs, which is also up from last year. According to Syverud, there's also a decent chunk (probably those in the "JD Advantage" and "Professional" fields) that are in good jobs, I imagine things like business, consulting and tax work. Keep in mind that some of those in the 70% FT/LT/J.D. jobs field are probably still objectively underemployed and doing things they'd rather not be doing, but it's still an improvement from c/o 2011. They talked about how they are still doing a lot for the un/under-employed graduates from last year, and there is some task force committee that meets once a week to try to help people even after graduation. The current data for the 3L class is up 10% in employment over the previous year.
My analysis? Things are getting better on the employment front, and I think they will continue to improve. In my opinion, the smaller class size will help you 0Ls and 1Ls a lot too. But it's still not as high as some of our peers, and with the cost of the school, you better have a good scholly because there is still quite a divide between the haves and the have-nots.
Tuition- Tuition is going up like another 2k. The most suspect thing he said in our meeting yesterday was that keeping tuition lower than our peers is somehow is a bad thing, and he looks at our peer schools tuition and tries to split the difference in our increases. Something about how we're not a market-setter or something, which doesn't make sense to me. It was weird and I didn't buy it, but it is what it is. That said, financial aid dollars are more abundant (see below).
Admissions- Admissions are down, as they are pretty much everywhere. They started out way down here, even more than the national average (which I think is down 30%), but now we're only down 10%. We still have like 10-15 times as many applicants as seats, but it'll be tough to keep your numbers when apps are down like that. But personally, I think we'll be okay, and will probably keep our LSAT median steady.
Because of these concerns, the school is throwing out even more financial aid this year. While tuition is going up, he said he expects financial aid increases to outpace tuition increases for at least this year. Not much solace to those paying sticker (which is just crazy, IMO), but there should be more scholarship money per student than ever before.
It sounds like they're shooting for around 200 1Ls again next year.
Ranking- He and Dean Laybold were reserved in talking about the rankings, but they sounded cautiously optimistic. According to their projections, we should move back up, but USNWR has announced they are changing their algorithm for the rankings. I think they're putting more weight on employment, which should help us, assuming other schools are honest in their reporting. But they didn't want to make any guesses because it's hard to say what will happen.
But to any 0Ls out there reading: rankings, at least in the short term, are worthless. Fluctuations from year to year have no impact on jobs. We fell in the rankings last year and our jobs data is improving; it's not like employers are fleeing because we're 23 instead of 19. So try not to let this influence you one way or the other. Sure, it's nice to be a "Top 20 school," but most people think of GW, WUSTL, Emory, UIUC, BC, BU, even Fordham as "Top 20s" even though they're technically not. This should not be a factor in whether you come here.
Curriculum- The biggest curriculum thing they've done is they've expanded the externship program to allow for greater flexibility in spending semesters off campus. The "Semester in Practice" program will basically allow people to design their own externships in other cities. The school has been discussing it for a while, but it sounds like profs were concerned with the lack of pedagogical control over students if they go all over the place. There are still some kinks to work out, but they finally passed it, and he thinks (and I definitely agree) that this will be great for job hunting. If you want to work in Seattle or San Francisco or Chicago, or wherever, it will help you a lot to be able to set up a program with an agency there, spend a semester there, and network your face off during your 4 months there. I think this is a huge advantage that will help us become more national.
There's also some new international programs and partnerships but my eyes kind of glazed over at that part, so someone else might be better able to speak to that.
Job Reporting- For those of you who don't know, Dean Syverud is the Chair of the ABA Section on Law Schools and has been a huge driver changing ABA job data reporting and in forcing schools to comply with ABA standards. It sounds like there will be a significant auditing system in place to catch people who are reporting suspect job data, much like the IRS auditing tax returns.
That's all I can think of off the top of my head, other people chime in with stuff that I've missed.