Griswold Asks 40 Law Schools Accept 10,000 More Applicants


To meet the demand for legal education, Erwin N. Griswold Dean of the Law School has proposed an increase of 10,000 students in the nation's law schools. He would do this, not by enlarging the bigger schools like Harvard (which has more than 1,6000 studens), but by an increase in each of the smaller law schools across the country.

"We have many schools with 200, 300, or 400 students," Dean Griswold said. "This has been a cozy, fine, friendly, and comfortable number and many schools have liked the small size. Nevertheless, it may be a luxury which cannot and ought not to be afforded in our present situation."

In his annual report to President Pusey, Dean Griswold also called for broader responsibility in the representation of indigent defendants. One area--legal representation of prisoners after conviction--is of special concern to the Harvard Law School, to which increasing numbers of prisoners address requests for legal help. Griswold called for "political leadership in our legislatures, state and federal" to provide lawyers for poor men accused of crime.

Scores Perhaps Poor Indicators

Dean Griswold reported that applications to the Harvard Law School have risen from 1,700 in 1960 to 2,700 in 1964. This requires "a very large amount of administrative and Faculty time," and presents, in screening applications to admit a class of 540, a "problem ... very nearly unresolvable." "We have had to decline, during the past year, the applications of more than one thousand persons whom we regard as well qualified, and whom we would be glad to have as students here," the Dean observed. He sees a need for revising procedures to meet the changed character of the admissions situation. In emphasizing academic achievement and admissions tests proficiency with "the most refined discrimination of marks and scores," the Dean said, "too many interesting students fail to survive the first cut ... We may be overlooking qualities and virtues which are not adequately reflected in the college records and test scores which we receive."


"I doubt that the solution is to have more law schools. We already have 130 'approved' law schools in this country, which is probably too many. But if 40 schools increased by 250 students each, there would be an overall increase of 10,000 places in law schools. There might, too, be some reduction in the pressure to get into some law schools. And legal education might be considerably benefited.

"Such changes would involve capital costs, for buildings, for libraries, for additions to faculty and staff. But these, spread through many schools, could be handled. In some cases, the increase could come at state universities, and legislative appropriations might be obtained to cover the necessary costs. There is no sound reason why so much of the pressure, and so much of the need for capital costs, should be focused on a few law schools.

In another section of his report, Dean Griswold expressed serious concern about the plight of indigent defendants. Furnishing counsel for them became mandatory in the federal courts in 1938 and in the state courts in 1963, but the Dean finds that neither Congress nor the states have made adequate provision for these defendants.

"One result of the present situation," Dean Griswold said, "is that we are in something of a dilemma. As it becomes more widely known that we try to give a responsive answer to letters containing legal questions, we receive more and more requests. The volume has grown to some hundreds a year, and it could soon be in the thousands. We have already passed the point where we can handle the matters satisfactorily. What are we to do? I have not been able to accept this conclusion, that we should ignore requests, either from the professional or the humane point of view.