Job Searches, Law Schools, LSAT

Law School Class Sizes Continue To Shrink. Are We Close To A Crash?

Today brings us more evidence that the number of people applying to law school is dropping. A new Kaplan survey shows that 51 percent of law schools have cut the size of their incoming classes. Of those schools, 63 percent claim they are cutting in response to the weak legal job market.

While the job market is certainly a factor, we know that schools are also struggling to keep up their admission standards as fewer and fewer people apply to law school. Some people think this is a temporary trough and that applications will pick back up once the economy gets better.

But some people see a crash coming, one that will force a few law schools out of business…

Paul Campos, writing on Inside the Law School Scam, sees doomsday in the declining application numbers:

I’m not normally a big fan of predictions, but I’m going to make one: We’re about to see the Crash. This is the spring of 2007 for the subprime CDO market. This is the moment when the anxiety that replaced denial is in turn replaced by panic.

Campos argues that to avoid further reductions, mid-tier law schools will drop their LSAT standards. That means the lowest-tier schools won’t be able to get their usual share of students who can’t get in anywhere else; at least a few of those law schools will fold, since their business model depends on churning dumbasses less well-credentialed students through their doors.

Remember, bottom-tier schools aren’t in the best position to pay people to come to study, as many of the mid-tier schools are doing. From the Kaplan survey:

[C]ompared to the 2011-2012 cycle, 47% of law schools have actually increased the amount of financial aid they have been able to provide students for the 2012-2013 cycle

Yeah, law schools aren’t doing that out of their kindness of their hearts. Financial aid in this context is better understood as a bribe to get someone, ideally someone with a strong LSAT and GPA, to come to a less well-respected law school.

Personally, I feel like we’re witnessing the plot of Idiocracy when it comes to the people who are still applying to law school. Check out this stat from Campos:

Total applicants, 2003-2004 cycle: 98,700

Total first year enrollment: 48,239

Percentage of ABA law school applicants who ended up enrolling in that cycle: 48.9%

Total applicants, 2011-2012 cycle: 68,000

Total first year enrollment: 48,697

Percentage of applicants who ended up enrolling last cycle: 71.6%

There is a lot less competition to get into law school now, which means that less-prepared students will be getting into better schools.

It’s a good thing that the ABA barely holds anybody accountable for their admissions standards, or even more law schools would be in trouble.

More Law Schools Cut Class Sizes [WSJ Law Blog]
Kaplan Test Prep Survey [Kaplan]
The Crash [Inside the Law School Scam]

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