College Guide

Blog

September 02, 2011 10:00 AM Law School Applications Decline

By Daniel Luzer

Finally it looks like those law school applications are going down. For the last decade or so undecided young professionals, perhaps inappropriately, saw law school as a reasonably secure path to prosperity. Sure the work might be boring, the thinking went, but at least one could buy some nice stuff.

And then the economy collapsed. And people started to realize that just going to law school didn’t ensure a good job, or even a job at all. So why bother?

According to an Associated Press article in the Toledo Blade:

“The sense that one can go to law school and get rich quick, that it is the lottery ticket— those days are well past,” said law dean Larry Dessem at the University of Missouri, where first-year fall enrollment is down 11 percent and applications declined nearly 17 percent. The lessening interest in law school can be seen at flagship public universities in Missouri and elite private schools such as Washington University in St. Louis, which reports a 12 percent enrollment decline.
New student enrollment at the University of California-Los Angeles is down 16 percent, while the University of Michigan reports a 14 percent decrease in applicants. WashU, UCLA and Michigan are top 25 schools in the influential U.S. News&World Report rankings.

The admissions director at Michigan Law, Sarah Zearfoss, says it doesn’t look like this is a one-year anomaly. Fewer people are just going to apply to law school in the future.

She thinks this might be a good thing, as the actual applicants will be more committed to legal careers.

“That’s going to lead to a lot more satisfied lawyers down the road,” said the dean of the law school at the University of Missouri.

This is true, though a general decline in the number of applicants to law schools could eventually wreak havoc on America’s lower-tier law schools, which require a steady stream of students rejected from selective law schools in order to survive.

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