Helping a small law school drive enrollment by defining its identity
At a time when law schools around the country were facing enrollment challenges due to increasing concerns about the value of a law degree, Western New England University asked us to help them bolster enrollment in their School of Law. We set out to define their unique strengths and position the institution in the marketplace. Following an extended discovery and definition phase, we delivered a viewbook and corresponding internal rollout campaign to debut the institution’s newly clarified messaging.
Before we even began ideating concepts, we wanted to ensure we had our story — the real story — down pat. To do so, we held on-campus focus groups with faculty, administration, and current students (from both day and nighttime programs) to gather their perceptions of the School’s strengths, spirit, community involvement, and more. This exercise helped us determine the key benefits offered by the School of Law, as well as what challenges the institution faced.
A few themes came up repeatedly: the drive for social justice, active community engagement (both on campus and in the surrounding Springfield area), diversity of perspectives, and attentive, involved faculty. One of the most prevalent talking points was the practical nature of the programs.
Telling the Story
As a continuation of the on-campus focus groups, we conducted first-person interviews over the phone to gather more detailed information. We couldn’t help but notice how frequently the students and alumni mentioned faculty members by name — and vice versa — and praised them for the hard work and impact on their careers. To play up the sense of community, we incorporated profiles of key figures within the School and orchestrated a photoshoot to capture the stories of actual people who make up the network.
Ultimately, the messaging revolved around the idea that the School of Law delivers a balance between the aspirational and the practical. Students can earn more than just a law degree; they are empowered to have a greater degree of impact at any level — from helping an elderly person plan their estate to helping shape policy on a national scale.
By carefully analyzing the market and determining where the School of Law could shine, we established a cohesive narrative that would resonate with internal parties and attract prospective students. This effort provided a strong foundation for future communications.
Unlike many struggling law schools around the country, Western New England University’s School of Law did not see a decrease in enrollment in the year following this work. In fact, the school’s JD program saw a slight uptick in applications, accepts and, deposits.