College Guide


March 20, 2012 5:53 PM The Law School Market Works

By Daniel Luzer

I’ve pointed out before that something isn’t really working out so well in the law school pipeline. The high cost of a law school education, together with the continuing weakness in the job market, means that going to law school isn’t always such a good financial decision. Going to a non-selective law school doesn’t seem to ever be a good financial decision

It looks like college students are finally paying attention.

According to an article by David Segal in the New York Times:

The Law School Admission Council reported that the LSAT was given 129,925 times in the 2011-12 academic year. That was well off the 155,050 of the year before and far from the peak of 171,514 in the year before that. In all, the number of test takers has fallen by nearly 25 percent in the last two years.

Good, kids. You’re paying attention.

Of course, that’s not much help to the 45,000 law students who will graduate this May (and next May, and the year after that). They didn’t get the memo in time and will still be on the hook for that life-crushing debt.

But things seem to be moving in the right direction. If fewer students take the LSATs, even fewer people will apply to (and actually attend) law school.

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


  • Jose Padilla on March 20, 2012 8:42 PM:

    You're assuming that fewer applicants means fewer acceptances. I don't think it works that way. It may get to the point where some law schools take everybody who applies. The problem is that many of those persons will fail the bar exam since the bar associations will not feel a compunction to license everybody who takes the bar.

  • Snarki, child of Loki on March 20, 2012 9:41 PM:

    I think that the number of students that take the LSAT is a pretty good measure of "students that plan on applying to law school".

    Since it's not like studying for or taking the LSAT is a cost-free holiday lark or something.

    I just wonder whether the job market for lawyers is in a cyclical slump, or whether the US is finally, FINALLY over-lawyered.

    Because if the situation of "a non-selective law school doesn’t seem to ever be a good financial decision" continues, there's a bunch of law schools that need to shut down.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on March 21, 2012 10:45 AM:

    I work in highly-selective private grad school, and the most disturbing thing I see are the students who, after going to (typically) a high-dollar private undergraduate college and are currenty attending our expensive ($60,000 per year) grad program, have their sights set on attending law school after getting their MA. Part of it may be that the job market is pretty tight and being permanently enrolled as a student helps defer student loan payments until they actually find gainful employment.

    Maybe they believe that if they have multiple professional degrees (from expensive brand-name colleges, of course), the investment will pay off eventually. Hopefully it will, because if it doesn't, those students are really looking forward to a lifetime of brutal peonage. Hopefully some of those prospective law students get this memo.