Law School Applications Down

Law School Applications Down

How far will law school applications fall?

Are potential law students scared finally thinking?

For the first time in many years, the number of applicants to law school fell.  We got a preview of this trend in January when LSAC reported a 10% drop in those taking the LSAT:

There were 42,096 test takers for the December 2010 administration. This figure is down 16.5% (8,348 test takers) from the December 2009 LSAT administration. Year-to-date (Jun-Dec), testing volume is 129,414.  While this figure is down 10.0% compared to last year, it is the second largest YTD testing volume (second only to last year).

And, now we hear that the number of law school applicants fell by 11.5% this year.  Good news, except that there are still way too many people applying. 

It seems that many potential students who thought that a law degree would be a golden meal ticket are figuring out that they will be lucky to find a modest paying job to repay the $100,000 in student loans that come with the degree.

The good news is that, with fewer applicants, your chance of being accepted into law school is the best since 2001.  The bad news is the students that you are competing with for law school seats are more informed than ever:

At Fordham University School of Law in New York, applications this year are down 15%, and those applying “appear to have analyzed the investment in law school closely and are serious about pursuing a career in law,” said Carrie Johnson, a school spokeswoman.

Kent Syverud, dean of the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, where applications this year declined more than 11%, said it was a good thing prospective students now were more “clear eyed” about the risks and rewards of a law degree.”The froth in the applicant pool—those who were just going to law school because they didn’t know what else to do and everyone told them it was a safe bet—is pretty well gone,” he said.

It remains to be seen what getting rid of people who were just chasing money or killing time will do to the quality of the competition in law school.  At first blush, you might think that competition would be harder because the class is filled with more motivated students.  But, that argument ignores the fact that we don’t know the caliber of the applicants who didn’t apply. 

 Only time will tell whether the reduction in applicants will translate into increased competition in the law school classes.  If so, everyone wins.