In case you haven’t been following the news, legal education in this country is in a state of crisis. Class sizes are shrinking, law school faculty and staff are getting laid off, and long-term, full-time jobs for graduating students that require bar passage are still sparse.
As of January, law school applications were down 38 percent from where they were three years ago in 2010. The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) stated that the number of total applicants would likely drop below 60,000 for the first time since 1983, when the organization started keeping such records. Many prospective students finally seem to have gotten the message: now is not an ideal time to go to law school.
Now that LSAC has released its preliminary final applicant and applications count, we know just how bad the situation has become. When will the madness end?
LSAC reports that as of August 8, 2013, 59,426 applicants submitted 385,358 Fall 2013 applications for the class of 2016. With nearly 100 percent of the count in, applicants for 2013 are down 12.3 percent and applications are down 17.9 percent from 2012. Madness? THIS IS LAW SCHOOL IN A DOWN ECONOMY!
Here’s some pictorial evidence from LSAC as to why law school faculty and staff fear for their jobs:
This is why law schools have decided to trim their class sizes and, at the same time, offer more financial aid to those who choose to roll the dice and attend. In fact, according to Kaplan, 51 percent of law schools have voluntarily cut the size of their entering classes. Instead of writing absurd op-eds about why law school is still a wise choice, some law school deans actually get it. From the Los Angeles Times:
“Reality has caught up to higher education,” said [Victor] Gold, who has served as dean [of Loyola Law School] since 2009. “The job market is still very slow, and we have a moral obligation not to just take tuition dollars and then turn a blind eye when our graduates can’t find jobs.” …
Unemployment, Gold said, “is the No. 1 complaint. It’s also the No. 2 complaint.”
As we’ve said here before, maybe the drop in law school applications isn’t such a bad thing after all. With tuition soaring — and some schools even daring to institute tuition hikes at a time like this — it seems like there are still some lessons to be learned by those who reign over the once-esteemed ivory tower. Some law schools have made many of the appropriate changes needed to best serve their students, but the decline in applicants won’t stop until until the others fall in line.
At this point, the message is clear for law schools: Get with the program or close up shop. Your choice.
Three-Year ABA Volume Comparison [LSAC]
Law School Applications Down 18% [TaxProf Blog]
Law school applications drop nearly 18 percent, benefiting students seeking financial aid [ABA Journal]
Faced with job complaints, Loyola Law School accepting fewer students [Los Angeles Times]
Facing A Tough Employment Landscape for New Lawyers, Law Schools Cut the Size of their Entering Classes [Kaplan]