The prospect of launching online legal education programs has been top of mind in several of my conversations with our law school partners. And it’s no surprise. More law schools have entered in the online space recently, and the pandemic has only increased student demand for flexible options. Here are some of the questions surrounding online law programs that I hear on a regular basis:
- Is an online legal education program viable for our institution?
- How should we market online law programs?
- How can we ensure the quality of our program translates to online modality?
As you are considering the future of legal education and potentially, the role of online law programs in your portfolio, here are a few strategies two of our (anonymized) partner law schools are implementing to reach their online program goals.
How Institution A Is Gauging Interest in and Creating Awareness for Their Online Law Offerings
Institution A, a large, private university in the Northeast, offers a fully online paralegal certificate, as well as an online Master of Laws (LLM). In the face of the pandemic and the growing interest in flexible options, Institution A wanted to grow these programs but faced intensifying competition. This led Institution A to struggle to significantly increase enrollment in their online law programs, despite using an OPM.
Here are two strategies that Institution A is using to meet their online enrollment goals:
1. Understand Interest in and Demand for Online Programs
As your team determines whether offering an online program is right for your law school, consider demand from your core market. Whether through a poll to prospects in your digital campaigns, or a survey of alumni, getting a sense of how prospective students might feel about an online legal education offering provides useful information about program viability.
Institution A worked with our team at EAB to create a survey for several prospective student audiences about their interests. The survey asked questions such as, “What areas of law would you be interested in learning more about?” and “What type of law degree or programming would you be interested in?” The answers to these questions helped Institution A determine whether an online offering would be worth developing initially and inform their offerings.
2. Use a Greater Range of Audience Generation Sources
As interest for online law programs grows, so does the competition. To increase enrollment, you must reach a wider audience. But your institution, your goals, and program modality are each going to influence how you build your right mix of students, at the right time, and for the right price.
Institution A found prospects for their online programs through a limited number of sources, including LSAT test-takers and application starters. Our Law School Enrollment Services team partnered with Institution A to optimize their use of these traditional sources and increase the number of leads in their pipeline through additional sources such as paid search, consumer analytics, and pilot list source opportunities.
Two Strategies Institution B is Using to Strengthen Their Engagement with Online Law Prospects
Institution B, a Large, Public University in the Mid-Atlantic, offers a hybrid and fully online option for their Master of Legal Studies (MLS) program, but it has not always a significant focus for the law school. Throughout their partnership with EAB, Institution B aimed to increase enrollment in their hybrid and online MLS program to secure an additional revenue stream for the law school. Before working with EAB, Institution B’s marketing most often consisted of infrequent and inconsistent conversations about applying with a few prospects.
Here are two strategies that Institution B is using to create a dedicated strategy to recruit online law students.
1. Meet Prospects with Timely and Relevant Communications
Every prospective law student’s journey to enrollment is different. This means that a one-size-fits-all marketing strategy will not be as effective as a more personalized approach. To succeed in recruiting the best-fit students for your online law program, your marketing needs to be hyperresponsive to students’ engagement cues, which requires advanced analytics and the ability to personalize communication at scale.
Institution B struggled to build awareness for their online program. With a small team primarily focused on the Institution’s traditional, face-to-face law offerings, Institution B was unable to generate enough interest in their online programs. With our researchers and experts acting as extra hands to develop personalized marketing content, Institution B was able to better engage students at significant moments in their enrollment journey. This attention to detail allowed Institution B to more than double their spring enrollment from 2021 to 2022, with out-of-state enrollments contributing significantly to this increase.
2. Pinpoint Your Weak Spots and Target Them Directly
As the saying goes, you are only as strong as your weakest player—and the same can be said for your law school’s online enrollment strategy. Determine where your enrollment and marketing strategy is lacking and seek internal or external support to strengthen it. Are prospective students finding your online programs in their search for flexible law options? Are you yielding students at a high percentage?
The team at Institution B identified yield as one area for improvement. In fall 2021, more than 50 percent of students who deposited chose not to enroll. For many law schools losing students post-deposit, students are choosing not to go to law school altogether, rather than enrolling at another institution. EAB hosted several anti-melt workshops with Institution B to ensure their messaging spoke to this shifting student mindset and helped retain students post-deposit. These updates to Institution B’s messaging led to a 100% deposit to enrollment rate the following spring.
deposit to enroll rate in Spring 2022.
Whether your law school wants to delve deeper into the online market or wants to increase diversity, the key to excelling is staying nimble. The market is constantly changing, and your enrollment strategy needs to be able to keep up.
Mary Virginia Spencer
Mary Virginia is our expert on our Law Enrollment Services team, helping law schools across the country map out tactical enrollment marketing campaigns to advance their enrollment, quality, and diversity goals. She specializes in audience targeting and leveraging research and analytics to develop targeted and impactful marketing strategies and campaigns.
Outside of work, Mary Virginia enjoys listening to music, trying new restaurants, swimming, running and hiking. She has led 3 backpacking trips on the Appalachian Trail.