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January 08, 2014

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Former Law Review Editor

How many people took the December 2013 LSAT? That will indicate whether or not the 51,392 forecast is too high or not.

I suspect that re-applicants tend to send their forms in early as they've already got their materials in order from last year. A significant decline in December 2013 LSAT takers, however, may presage a sub-50,000 applicant year.

Alfred L. Brophy

I don't know the answer to your question, FLRE. I agree that would be helpful to know.

Just to be clear, I was basing the estimate of applicants (not applications) on the number of applicants as of January 3, 2014 and that at this time last year we had 38% of the final applicant count.

Steve Diamond

I think it is fair to say we are now paying for two up turns as there was a significant leap up in first years in the wake of the dot com crash (7% in 2002-03) as well as in the wake of the credit crisis. And only now are numbers falling far enough to unwind those upticks. Of course, just as the up ticks were overly optimistic these numbers are likely overly pessimistic. The structuralist and the cyclists (I remain with Gary Becker and Michael Simkovic in the latter camp) will have to wait and see.

Judgement Day is Coming

I think the academy has a couple things wrong when the expect a rebound in applicants any time soon.

(1) It doesn't make sense to borrow 250k for even a 100% chance at a job paying 50k.

(2) Strong employment numbers won't happen even with a smaller amount of law school graduates given how bad the market is. It will take a while the the market to absorb all the people that graduated in recent years.

blech

Ah, Steve Diamond.

What you don't get is that things have fundamentally changed in the last few years.

Yes, in a sense the academy may be 'paying for' previous upticks in enrollment, but the other thing which has led to some of the decrease in applicants, and will continue to decrease applications even more, is a degree of transparency in outcomes, which did not previously exist.

The knowledge that comes from the increased transparency is only going to continue to percolate out into the cultural consciousness, and will have a much greater impact on application numbers than a simple scaling back of applications following economic disturbances.

Stan

Here is a job for a new law grad / attorney just North of Mr. Diamond's neck of the woods:

http://sfbay.craigslist.org/sfc/lgl/4276839181.html

2-3 months. $15/hr. No benefits.

The future of the profession is bright, indeed.

FrankWorthington

Too many lives have been destroyed by law school debt. These people have friends, family, and acquaintances whom they have told why law school ruined their lives. When more than a quarter of graduates (and that's being VERY conservative) have to go on IBR and live with their parents in their late 20s and early 30s, there's a problem. Most law school graduates were regarded as bright by their social circle and peers. When these people see that the law school graduate has had their life ruined by law school due to scarce jobs (most of which are low paying and many of which are miserable) and huge debt, word begins to get out. Law school is a terrible investment.

Frank the Underemployed Professional

Word is getting out that Law School is a Scam. Statistics can even be used to show that barely 50% of all the JDs produced over the past 40 years actually work in the legal profession (and many of those job may be low income, low-job-quality types). It also is not inconceivable that fewer than 30% of all new grads find legitimate entry level jobs in the field, if that. See:

http://flustercucked.blogspot.com/2010/07/40-years-of-lawyer-overproduction-data.html

http://flustercucked.blogspot.com/2010/07/statistics-suggest-that-only-538-of-all.html

http://flustercucked.blogspot.com/2010/07/statistics-may-suggest-less-than-30-of.html

Stan Shunpike

I would be more likely to side with the cyclists (a) if tuition hadn't sky rocketed from the $20k/yr range to the $45k/yr range over the last decade and (b) if prospective students hadn't gained access to more meaningful employment data.

Its worth noting that unlike previous drops in applications, which occurred during good economic times, the current drop in applications is occurring in the midst of a depressed labor market. If you can't count on a depressed economy to push young people into law school, what can you count on?

Steve Diamond

I don't think we are in a depression. I think in fact the economy has stabilized. And of course in certain parts, like here in the Valley, is actually booming. And that is likely contributing to the downturn, as has happened in the past. BA holders now have the chance to get work out of college whereas in 09-10 they had little chance.

The reversion to the mean will set in soon although, of course, it will not hit the recent peaks, nor should it, as that was likely a once in a generation event.

In the meantime changes in the law school model will continue paralleling changes in the university model. The risk though is that we end up with a dumbed down two tier legal academy and that has negative implications for the role and impact of lawyers.

Of course since much of the attack on law schools is actually veiled (and not so veiled) hostility to lawyers generally that may be the intent of the reform movement.

Cent Rieker

The incessant drumbeat of disdain directed at the legal academy needs to end. They are all making tremendous sacrifices to teach at law schools that they did not attend. It is merely semantics and a coincidence that they are graduates from places like Yale, Stanford, and Harvard. There is hardly a significant discrepancy in the employment outcomes and options between the schools where law professors graduated from and where they teach. They would be the first to tell you, after seeing their graduates take the legal profession by the horns just as their elite law school classmates did!

In fact, I would wager a lot of money that if the law faculty at places like Santa Clara, Case Western, Drexel and St. Louis could do it all over again, they would not enroll at their alma maters. I may even double down on that and wager that they'd encourage their children to not make the same mistakes they did and to reject UCLA for Pepperdine or Southwestern, right??

James Morrison

"The incessant drumbeat of disdain directed at the legal academy needs to end."
--------------------------

Frankly, I think it needs to get a lot worse. With the crashing enrollment numbers we can reasonably expect that 25% to 50% of the current legal academy needs to plan on a new career path as faculties shrink and some law school close down for good. The sooner the better...

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James Morrison

"The incessant drumbeat of disdain directed at the legal academy needs to end."
--------------------------

Frankly, I think it needs to get a lot worse. With the crashing enrollment numbers we can reasonably expect that 25% to 50% of the current legal academy needs to plan on a new career path as faculties shrink and some law school close down for good. The sooner the better...

BoredJD

"Of course since much of the attack on law schools is actually veiled (and not so veiled) hostility to lawyers generally that may be the intent of the reform movement."

That's it Steve. A bunch of people that are going to spend decades in a profession that is being hobbled by the greed of law schools are the ones who are hostile to lawyers. Not the people who, through their insistence on squeezing every last cent out of young people (let them eat PAYE!) have ensured that anyone who can possibly do anything else with their life is doing that instead of going into the profession.

You are absolutely making so much sense right now.

Honest Abe

Steve,

Your comments do not make any sense. It's rough out there economically, and especially in the law field.

Look at the evidence as it is all around you. In this very thread, you claim that things are booming in the Bay Area, and then you ignore the SF craigslist post for 15/hour document review. My goodness! I suspect that there are options for smart BA holders. These likely pay better than 15/hr with no benefits in the second most expensive metro area. I can't see how anyone but the most biased of viewers can look at this and conclude a cyclical temporary change.

Stan

As a frame of reference, minimum wage in SF is $10.74, so in that respect Mr. Diamond is indeed correct, JD holders are doing nearly 40% better than non-JD holders.

Former Law Review Editor

Google just answered my question. Only 28,363 people took the December 2013 LSAT.

http://www.lsac.org/lsacresources/data/lsats-administered

CBR

The number of LSATS administered in December is also down another 6.2% from last year.

BoredJD

Also remember that # of LSATs administered =/= the # individual LSAT takers. Unfortunately the only data on "repeaters" is from 2010-2011, which reported that only about a third of applicants take the test more than once. I'd suspect that the number of people willing to retake until they get a certain score has increased given the information that is out there about how much money schools will pay for a few extra points and the advice from current law students.

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