The Academic Exchange: Have you noticed changes to revenue streams in the law school after the economic downturn of 2008 and more recently?
Robert Schapiro: The changes to the economic climate have affected the law school in several ways. The key sources of revenue include tuition from students and income from the endowment. These economic times have put a lot of pressure on our students and their families. These circumstances have led us to keep tuition increases as low as possible and to offer a great deal of scholarship support for our students to try to lower their debt loads and to try to ensure that they are able to have a variety of options for what they do when they graduate—and to make sure we continue to attract a diverse and outstanding group of students. The decline in the endowment following 2008 also reduced our income from that source. Another way in which the economic downturn has affected the law school is how we are helping students thrive in the world after graduation. We are making sure we are adapting the school to changing economic circumstances. We are making sure our curriculum is well-matched to the needs of our students and changes in the legal profession.
Additionally, we are helping our students while they’re in law school to make sure they are able to pursue their chosen path in the law and make a seamless transition into a career as they graduate. Our alumni have been very helpful to us in that regard, keeping us informed about what’s going on in the legal profession and helping our students make that transition. Given the challenges in the legal job market, we are trying to emphasize more than ever the importance for students of figuring out what is their chosen path in the law and how best to present themselves to future employers.
AE: What kinds of approaches have you taken to address changing economic and professional needs?
RS: One way we have addressed the changing times is making sure our curriculum is in tune with the needs of our students and the changing shape of the legal profession. One of the key ways we have done that is through our Center for Professional Development and Career Strategy. For the different areas of legal specialty, the center identifies curricular paths, facilitates Student Practice Societies, and brings alumni to campus to talk to students about their careers. The goal is to help the students gain an understanding of the different possibilities for careers and to have contacts and mentors in the legal profession.
The changes also helped us make sure we are focused on emphasizing our strengths and on devoting our resources to our key priorities, including the education of our students, our signature academic programs, our important public interest projects, our commitment to diversity, and our goal of keeping a legal education accessible and affordable.
AE: Has the current economic climate led you to change how you are prioritizing budgetary matters?
RS: In general, our budget process hasn’t changed dramatically, though we are alert to different priorities in light of changing circumstances. We are devoting more resources to scholarship support for our students. We are devoting more resources to career advice and to our Center for Professional Development and Career Strategy. We are devoting more resources to our experiential programs, which include our clinics, externships, and our transactional law, trial techniques, and intellectual property programs. We are trying to make sure we are devoting our resources to key areas of importance, given the changes going on
AE: What alternative forms or creative ways of generating revenue have you considered?
RS: Whenever we think about our programs, we think about how to advance our core purpose, how to advance our scholarly, teaching, and service missions. We continue to ask ourselves what is the best way to do that. We see there is great interest in the U.S. legal system around the world, so we have begun to focus more on programs that may appeal to international students. This includes our LLM [Master of Laws] program, a one-year program that we have had for a long time, but in which we see increasing interest. We have also seen interest in more specialized programs. For example, we are creating an MCL [Master in Comparative Law] program in partnership with a university in Shanghai, to train Chinese prosecutors and defense lawyers. Another program we have started is the JM [Juris Master] program, for those who don’t wish to be practicing lawyers but are working professionals who want more knowledge about the law. We are open to more possibilities of ways in which people can get the benefit of an Emory Law education without spending three consecutive years in Gambrell Hall.