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.

Is your Law School Committing Fraud?

So, we all know (or soon will ) that fraud is making a material misrepresentation of an existing fact that the bad guy knows if false—but the hapless victim does not—with the intent that bonehead will act on it, if bonehead actually acts on the statement and suffers damages.  

The New York Times just wrote an article called Is Law School a Losing Game that seriously questions the integrity of law school data reporting.  The article highlights the fact that graduating students are facing a nightmare job market, while at the same time law school data suggests that their prospects are better now than ever.  

One law school professor stated that “Enron-type accounting standards have become the norm.”  The professor has joined the ranks of other law professors who are asking the American Bar Association to re-think the way law schools measure their results.  “Every time I look at this data, I feel dirty.”

One way they manipulate the data is by counting any student that has a job (even as a waitress) as employed.  Can you say–Shady?  Also, some law schools will actually hire their students for a temp job so that they are working on the magic day that the ABA uses to decide if the new law grads are working.  The number-fudging games are widespread because the fortunes of law schools rise and fall on their rankings.  And, make no mistake, they are very profitable.      

So, it seems a little ironic that your law school states that its median starting salary is over $100,000 with over 90% of its students are working within nine months of graduation, when the same school requires law studentsto take Professional Responsibililty (a course on ethics and disclosure). 

One of the proposed solutions to this problem is to put a mandatory warning in front of prospective law students.  Like something off of a cigarette pack it would read “Law school tuition is expensive and here is what the actual cost will be, the job market is uncertain and you should carefully consider whether you want to pursue this degree.  If you sign up for X amount of debt, your l payment will be X in three years.”

So, if you haven’t joined the ranks of law students yet you might want to carefully consider your options before committing to an extra mortgage payment in the hopes that you will get a cush job making tons of money.  Or, you could just be a bonehead like many of us were…