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The Best Law Schools Are Attracting Fewer Students

Dave_BerryDave_Berry CC Admissions Expert Posts: 2,282 Senior Member
"… Since 2011, the number of applicants to law schools ranked in the top 20 by U.S. News has dropped by a median 18 percent, data from the American Bar Association show. Yale Law School saw its applicant count dip by 13 percent. Harvard Law School experienced an 18 percent drop." …

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-01-26/the-best-law-schools-are-attracting-fewer-students
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Replies to: The Best Law Schools Are Attracting Fewer Students

  • Roger_DooleyRoger_Dooley Founder Posts: 106,392 Senior Member
    The good news is that the top schools are relaxing standards to varying degrees to maintain revenue. Some are cutting enrollment to avoid too sharp a decline in LSAT cutoffs.

    Harvard apps were off 18%, and Columbia & were off more than 20%. And now's not the time of year to visit Minnesota, but their apps were down 44%. Stanford and Penn eked out small gains, and for some reason Washington University saw a 20% leap.

    The most telling stat about interest in top law schools:
    "In 2010, 12,177 people with the highest scores on the LSAT (165 and above, the highest possible score being 180) applied to law school. By 2015, only 6,667 people with those scores applied."

    So, it's a bit easier to get into a top law school. But, the decline in apps is driven by diminished job prospects with high-paying big law firms. Econ 101.

  • CharlesDarneyCharlesDarney Registered User Posts: 58 Junior Member
    Could this possibly be a reflection of the career prospect itself? Maybe 'Law School' is losing its appeal across the new generation...
  • TallTimTallTim Registered User Posts: 26 New Member
    As an alum of one of the schools on the list, I can say that at least that law school is taking this very seriously in the sense that the law school (as with most all professional schools) is a big financial driver for its university; consider the profit on law school tuition (w relatively low facilities overhead (faculty offices, lecture halls)) and high bill vs a grad program in medicine or physics or comp sci (with often lower or subsidized tuition and much higher fixed costs in labs, servers and related facilities) and it might be clearer why the top schools want to hold class size steady in the face of declining applicant pools.

    That said, as a former practicing lawyer and public company general counsel I can also offer clear proof that the economics of the practice of law and concomitant purchase of legal services has changed tremendously in the past 10 years. A rapid bottom-up commoditization and fragmentation of legal work, in the same time frame as significant turbulence in M&A and finance activity, has made life very hard for the top private law firms which are the target employers from many of the schools on that list of top x. In that environment, the firms obviously retrench and hire fewer grads, an until the schools produce fewer new JDs and/or the applicant pool shrinks to accommodate the new reality of legal work/services in the US there will be some painful transitions. IMO, the schools' decisions about enrollment and fees in the face of poorer job prospects for their graduates and shrinking applicant pools is just a step along the continuum we can expect to see until things balance out at a lower level - or until the work rebounds to support new/continued hiring and salaries at the big firms.
  • dc20016dc20016 Registered User Posts: 79 Junior Member
    I am a graduate in the era of the 1970's of the University of Michigan Law School. I am glad that my school has dealt with the decline in demand for admissions to our school by cutting back the size of the class so as to maintain the statistical markers of its class quality. Having said that, I know and I am sure the admissions officers realize that the majority of the applicants could do the work at our school. So, the real issue is whether the admissions officers can attract and put together an entering class of interesting, diverse, smart, world-class students who can come together and debate the great legal issues of all time and today and produce graduates of the same quality as those historically graduated from one of the nation's top law schools. The University of Michigan Law School is one of the nation's best law schools (public or private) and I am gratified that it works every day to earn its well-deserved reputation.
  • WorryHurry411WorryHurry411 Registered User Posts: 1,112 Senior Member
    Is it because young generation hates lawyers and career politicians or because there aren't enough jobs?
  • DustyfeathersDustyfeathers Registered User Posts: 2,027 Senior Member
    Decline in numbers of applicants doesn't necessarily mean a decline in quality of those accepted at this level. At the peak schools there were far more qualified people than seats in the class. Where the quality issue begins to show is not at the elite schools so much, but at the next tier and below.
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 11,498 Super Moderator
    Top students are going to migrate from field to field based on where the best opportunities are. You can see it even here on this website. When I was in high school and college (2000-2008), during the last years of the heyday of law, law school was a very common talked-about destination. The top students all wanted to go to law school for the high salaries and prestige that law was perceived to bring. You talk to top students these days and far fewer of them cite law school as high on the list of things they want to do anymore. Now it's software development and engineering and some international/security studies.

    I think it's because the very excellent students do their research; they get on the Internet and talk to people and do internships and learn stuff. And any quick Google search on the law profession will reveal the crisis to you. So it's unsurprising that many of the students that are left still going to law school are sort of the next-tier applicants (and some lower-tier ones)...they're either the ones who didn't catch on, or the ones who are unwilling or unable to compete for jobs in fields that are still attracting top students in droves, or the few who still believe in the pipe dream of high law salaries or defending the innocent or whatever.

    I mean, it would be great if this happened to PhD programs, too! There's a market that needs some culling.
  • MatachinesMatachines Registered User Posts: 222 Junior Member
    Is it because young generation hates lawyers and career politicians or because there aren't enough jobs?

    The latter for sure. People have always hated lawyers and politicians—doesn't stop those looking for good careers.

    For decades, parents wanting their kids to live in the upper middle class said "medicine or law". It will be interesting to see how that changes in the future. I personally don't think software engineering is quite there yet, and it's just as susceptible to market changes, if not more (remember the dot-com bubble?).
  • MandalorianMandalorian Registered User Posts: 1,484 Senior Member
    edited January 2016
    I think a lot less kids are interested in going into law in general. "Lawyers are a dime a dozen" is a pretty common saying, to many the field seems saturated.
  • SouthFloridaMom9SouthFloridaMom9 Registered User Posts: 3,275 Senior Member
    I'm never sorry that I went to law school, but it was much less expensive (relatively speaking) back then, and I went to a decent, mid-tier state law school. Nerd that I am, I actually enjoyed law school (though it was tough). That being said, when young people ask me about it I usually suggest another career path.

    Florida has added 3 new law schools since I moved here a decade and a half ago. The market is saturated.
  • goldenbear2020goldenbear2020 Registered User Posts: 908 Member
    Decline in numbers of applicants doesn't necessarily mean a decline in quality of those accepted at this level. At the peak schools there were far more qualified people than seats in the class. Where the quality issue begins to show is not at the elite schools so much, but at the next tier and below.

    Exactly, Yale and Harvard may get 13% and 18% fewer applicants, but their median LSATs have stayed steady at 173 for many years.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 62,186 Senior Member
    http://www.lstscorereports.com/national/ shows law employment and underemployment rates for new graduates of law schools. Note that the law school with the 14th highest long-term-bar-passage-required employment rate is only 81.1%, meaning that 18.9% of that law school's graduates were not employed in long-term-bar-passage-required jobs. Meanwhile, the projected debt levels are staggeringly huge.
  • panpacificpanpacific Registered User Posts: 1,300 Senior Member
    Does anyone have data for numbers of applicants to medical schools and business schools? Have they been increasing since 2011?
  • CharlieschCharliesch Registered User Posts: 1,733 Senior Member
    edited January 2016
    UVa law has been intentionally decreasing their incoming class size from a peak of 360 down to 300. Here's info on shrinking class sizes at all of the law schools in Va.

    http://www.cavalierdaily.com/article/2015/02/national-law-school-enrollment-reaches-40-year-low

    Reduced class sizes not only maintain the quality of students, but also increases the average financial aid per student, which helps to make law school more cost-effective for prospective students.

    Temple law has also been intentionally shrinking their class sizes.

    The higher quality law schools have been shrinking intentionally, while the lower quality law schools have been shrinking unintentionally. The expectation is that some law schools will fail. One of the big problems is that there was such a great expansion in total law school seats and in the numbers of law schools during the 1980s and 1990s. Some universities looked at law schools as "profit centers."

    ---
    There were a couple years (2009 to 2011) that were exceptional because so many people were trying to wait out the recession by furthering their education at law school and masters programs throughout the US. Many people moved up the intended date of their graduate and law studies because it was such a horrible time to be job hunting.


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