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April 12, 2012 4:17 PM 56,000: The Magical Law School Number

By Daniel Luzer

One legal issues blogger has revealed something sort of interesting about law school applications. As I wrote yesterday fewer students are applying to law schools.

But something else is going on here: the total number of annual applications to law schools is declining to a number roughly equivalent to the number of people who were admitted to law schools annually over the law decade. Law school for everyone who wants it!

Steve Schwartz writes:

Here’s the data from the Law School Admission Council demonstrating the increasing percentage of law school applicants admitted to at least one law school.
The projected number of law school applicants for the 2011-2012 admission cycle (those applying to begin law school in 2012) is coming perilously close to the number of applicants admitted by law schools in previous years. (Projection for 2012 is based on this LSAC data.)

Some 55,800 students were admitted to law school last year. About 67,000 students will apply to law school this year. But this application number (red line, below) has been declining for the last few years. The number admitted, however, remains more or less the same (green line, below). That means that soon, if nothing else changes, the lines will intersect, and about 56,000 people will apply for about 56,000 positions.

LawSchoolApplicants

This doesn’t mean that everyone will get into his dream law school, of course. Nor does it mean that everyone who graduates from law school gets a good job when he’s done.

It does do something interesting to supply and demand however. Law school won’t look so attractive if everyone knows he can be admitted somewhere. Lower and mid-tier schools can’t really justify offering potential students gigantic debt.

They’re going to have to operate a little differently. If this trend continues, law school financing will have to operate more like undergraduate financing. Undergraduate debt is troublesome, for sure, but at least it’s a little more reasonably based on actual salary expectations.

Mid-tier law schools, for instance, just won’t be able to saddle students with six-figure debt levels. If there are only so many students interested in getting a law degree, law schools will have to offer something more practical than just the vague suggestion of a career at the end; they’re going to have to give out better financial aid offers, or they’ll just have to close. [Chart via]

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer

Comments

  • Jose Padilla on April 12, 2012 6:25 PM:

    Just because you have a law degree doesn't mean you get to practice law. If the quality of the students is lower (as suggested by the 100% acceptance rate) then the percentage passing the bar will be lower and law school will become even less popular. In the long run,you're going to see a huge weeding out of law schools.

  • Crissa on April 13, 2012 5:42 AM:

    I think it's interesting that population increased by 10% but demand for lawyers has apparently dropped, and supply of students is flat.