Number of Law School Applications in Decline


The Legal Skills Prof Blog is reporting that law school applications are in sharp decline from last year – this according to a report published on a password protected page of LSAC’s website.

The data in the report shows a 16.7% downturn in applications to law school, and a 15.3% downturn in applications to the American Bar Association. Simply put, there are fewer players in the “law school game”, a trend you should expect to see continue, at least in the short term.

The Law School Express, circa 2008

If I place myself in your shoes, oh law school hopeful, I think there are two important things to glean from this information. The first is quite obvious and good news for the law school applicant. Less competition for those coveted spots in the nation’s top law schools will certainly not hurt your chances.

I arrived at the second big takeaway by considering  why law school applications are declining.  The market of law school hopefuls is certainly reacting to the well publicized lack of job prospects that newly minted attorneys are facing today.

The staggering 16.7% downturn is compounded by the fact that there is a natural tendency for undergrads to flock to grad school during an economic downturn instead of testing the struggling job market. This tendency likely accounts for some record high application numbers dating back a few years ago (note: I haven’t checked those statistics, but I do know for a fact that LSAT administrations hit an all time high in 2009-2010), which makes the current decline seem particularly sharp.

In summary, jobs are hard to find across the board in the United States of America, and legal jobs are no exception. There is more competition for seemingly fewer positions.

Enter second takeaway: it is more important than ever to get in to a law school that makes sense for you. Are you looking to become a power player at a reputable firm? If so, you’re going to really want to land at a top ten law school. However, if working for a public interest firm and avoiding crippling debt is more your style, then you’re going to really want to get law school paid for and going to a top ten should be less of a priority..

I think you get the point. There are many, many things to consider (and reasons to be skeptical, for that matter) before you decide to pursue a career in the law profession. While there are countless scenarios besides the ‘power player’ and ‘public interest’ career hopeful, this latest crunch in the legal job market should serve to motivate those starting down the path to law school to aim higher.


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