Law schools try new- and old-school marketing approaches
By Lyle Moran
Daily Journal Staff Writer
Taylor Ashton, a second-year student at USC Gould School of Law, took over the school’s admissions page on Facebook for a week last month.
He used the opportunity to post a video about his involvement in the school’s entertainment law society and mediation clinic, and he encouraged interested students to come check out the campus.
Ashton highlighted in another post that he has had a lot of fun living in Los Angeles and was looking forward to attending the USC-UCLA football game.
David Kirschner, dean of admissions at USC’s law school, said having students share about their lives on the admissions office’s Facebook page is one way Gould has expanded its social media presence in hopes of attracting new applicants.
“We are really trying to make sure we are meeting the market where it is,” Kirschner said.
USC’s online efforts are one example of how some schools are turning to new marketing approaches in the midst of tough times for legal education, while other institutions are trying old-school methods to entice prospective students.
Law schools are also increasingly promoting their non-juris doctor programs to applicants.
Niels B. Schaumann, dean of California Western School of Law in San Diego, said his school has started to shift its marketing focus to online avenues because they create the opportunity for more interaction than printed materials.
The school plans to use short videos to let students, faculty and alumni tell about their experiences in their own words.
Schaumann is hopeful the videos will highlight the school’s strengths in trial advocacy, social justice and criminal law to a broader audience.
“For schools like us that don’t have a parent university, we have to build a brand,” he said.
Mitch Winick, president and dean of state-accredited Monterey College of Law and San Luis Obispo College of Law, said his schools are undertaking marketing efforts that create face-to-face interactions, rather than just online communications, with prospective students.
The San Luis Obispo school has decided to sponsor a concert next month at nearby California Polytechnic State University.
School officials will be handing out Frisbees and a banner will note the concert is sponsored by San Luis Obispo College of Law, said Winick.
“The feedback we have been getting is that the old-school method of putting posters around campus and underwriting a concert is a much better way to reach students than trying to craft clever advertising on Twitter, Instagram, or other social media platforms,” Winick said.
USC has also partnered with other law schools, including UC Berkeley School of Law, to try to make its admissions officials’ visits to undergraduate campuses more engaging.
Previously, the admissions staffers would go to law school or graduate school fairs held by universities and sit behind tables waiting for interested students to visit.
In recent years, USC has teamed up with four other schools to instead host panel discussions in which attendees can ask questions.
“It makes it more of an interactive dialogue than a passive setting where you are just sitting behind a table in a line of other schools,” said USC’s Kirschner.
Law schools have undertaken their marketing efforts against the backdrop of a nearly 30 percent decline in first-year enrollment at American Bar Association-accredited institutions from 2010 to 2015, though data released Thursday for the fall of 2016 indicated a slight uptick in students starting law school.
One constant growth area for the legal academy during this tumultuous period has been non-juris doctor programs.
ABA schools reported that 13,677 students were enrolled in LL.M., masters and certificate programs this fall, a 5 percent increase from a year ago.
Pepperdine University School of Law is actively promoting an expanded set of master of laws degrees, said Al Sturgeon, the dean of graduate programs.
The school has announced it will launch a master of laws in entertainment, media and sports law, as well as one in U.S. law that will be targeted to international students.
The Malibu-based school has also established a presence in West Los Angeles to try to increase the number of mid-career professionals participating in LL.M. degree programs offered through its Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution.
“It is an opportunity to expand the reach of our education to places we didn’t before,” Sturgeon said.
The Monterey and San Luis Obispo law schools have been highlighting that they offer students the chance to complete a master of legal studies degree at the same time as their juris doctor.
The two schools, which will welcome Kern County College of Law into the fold next year, also plan to start tailoring their master’s programs to topics of interest to their regions and marketing them that way.
For example, Winick said international law would be a specialization at the Monterey school, while agriculture and energy would be emphasized at the Kern County location.
In addition, he said the schools are considering starting a master of legal studies program in social justice.
“If we can take our core business — legal education — and repackage it in other ways that meet the marketplace, that is a win-win opportunity,” Winick said.