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January 08, 2014


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Like all bursting bubbles, the decline of applications to law schools will continue and accelerate until actual graduation rates are lower than market demand. That decline has a ways to go...

That said, I do not expect that "soaking up" graduates, especially graduates with no-experience from the "bust years" will be a significant factor. It is a depressing point, but somewhere between 1½ years and 2 years post graduation (unless the graduate has been clerking), a law graduate is very unlikely to be employed as a lawyer if they have not had experience already. Those that graduated between 2008 and 2012, and have not since then had legal employment are pretty well out of the running for most legal jobs.

As far as lower tier law schools like say Santa Clara and Drexel are concerned - they have limited choices - cut enrolment and/or cut tuition so that the cost of attendance makes sense in terms of the employment prospects of their graduates. Again - we return to the simple equation - cut output to about 20-24,000 JD p.a. and halve costs (i.e., double productivity.) My own assessment - the law schools complex will undershoot - less graduates than demand and lower costs than necessary, before it is all over. When, that is a more interesting question - but all sorts of businessmen and philanthropists are having their names scrubbed off law schools right now....

Steve Diamond

Abe, Re-read my comment carefully. The point is that when the economy turns up BA's have alternatives to hiding out in law school. And it has turned up generally and sharply here. That is exacerbating the downturn.


Steve Diamond
You believe that the economy is "booming" in the "Valley." Do you claim the "booming" stock market and Wall Street wealth are also relevant here?
Your point, in this context, is that attractive opportunities available as an alternative for "BA's [are] exacerbating the downturn" in law school applications.
See, e.g., here,
where it is noted among other things:
"But many residents, even those with college educations, are finding it tougher than ever to make it in the Silicon Valley."
But then again, Silicon Valley, you say, is "booming."
In the course of defending a system faulted for the sort of sheltered and oblivious nature of those defending it, your comments are significant indeed.


MacK -- When you say "all sorts of businessmen and philanthropists are having their names scrubbed off law schools right now"; Did you mean this has happened at any school other than Drexel? Or were you just making that up?

Steve Diamond

Anon, the evidence of recovery is undeniable as the BLS reports here:

Only Mitt Romney thinks there is no recovery underway.

Of course, capitalism is a volatile system that generates massive wealth and poverty simultaneously so it is not a surprise nor inconsistent to say that the Valley is booming while there is poverty all around. The latest demonstration of this phenomenon is the tension being generated in the Mission District in San Francisco where techies and hipsters are clashing with the shrinking hispanic population.


I am not a convinced "cyclist." It's much too early to see how the legal market is going to shape out.

What role information technology and the Brazilification of the US will have on the recovery of demand for lawyers (after the economic dive and the bursting of the BigLaw bubble that was decades in the making) remains to be seen. And that will in turn shape the demand for law school.


If BigLaw drives the lower demand for law school grads, then one wouldn't one expect to see the biggest decreases in enrollment and post-law school employment outcomes in those law schools that feed BigLaw? Is that what the data show? Take a look at employment outcomes for grads from law schools that don't place a significant number of grads in BigLaw. Any change, or have these schools placement outcomes always been so poor?
If IT drives the lower demand for law school, then one wonders: to what recent major improvements in the software that law firms use do you refer? Or, do you believe improvments in processing speed, storage, and portable devices are responsible for declining law school enrollment?
"Brazilification" ... wow. That's a fancy word. Coupland, Douglas. Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. New York: St. Martins's Press, 1991. See also, Thomas L. Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, 1991. What on earth does that word mean in this context?

Steve Diamond

A booming Valley existing siumltaneously with poverty is not a contradiction, it is a natural concomitant of capitalism.


You insist on attacking straw men.
Someone refers to a "depressed economy" and you say "there is no depression."
Someone cites evidence that BAs are not finding the opportunities you claim are accounting for decreased numbers of law school applicants, and you say "there is always rich and poor" (thereby totaling refuting your own claim that the number of law school applications is somehow related to an improving economy).
Someone asks whether an improving stock market and riches for a few in Silcon Valley has any real bearing on the prospects for lawyers, and you quote Mitt Romney.
Needless to say, perhaps, your arguments, as noted by others above, are all over the place and illogical.

Steve Diamond

Try to listen or at least read: the improving economy gives BAs alternatives in the short run that help weaken demand for law school. It's about not becoming a lawyer. I think this is crystal clear to anyone who wants to be objective. In the near term this means a weaker demand for JDs. As has happened several times in the past 20 years. When the lawyer shortage emerges the cycle will turn back.


Steve - as I'm sure you're well aware if you wouldn't insist on trotting out your fatuous analyses, the health of the economy is not the only variable controlling the number of applicants to law school.

Other variables include skyrocketting tuition/debt, increasing knowledge of (poor) employment outcomes, etc.

Steve Diamond

Whatever one thinks of law school brochures there is nothing new about that. And yet the ups and downs of law school enrollment proceeded apace.

Is it, belch, your view that the spike up in LS enrollment at the point when unemployment peaked was a coincidence in the early 90s, the early 00s and in 09-10? and that enrollment sank when unemployment sank in the late 90s and the mid 00s?


Steve says: "It's about not becoming a lawyer. I think this is crystal clear to anyone who wants to be objective."
Well. Steve. There. You've said it.
Add to that, this, and one has a real classic:
"[W]eake[r] demand for law school. ... means a weaker demand for JDs."
Wow. Not the other way around, of course.
Now, to this brilliance, mix in that classic snarl and throw in a sort of cliche nasty aside that truly borders on parody ("Try to listen")and you have the whole picture!
"Crystal clear" as Steve says.


Steve: If you would take some time to support your point that BAs are increasingly more valuable now than JDs, thereby accounting for a decline in law school applications, perhaps then folks would be able to compare your insights with those of others who defend the status quo. You seem very well qualified to invent this risible contention. So, it shouldn't be difficult at all to support it.

Jesus Buddha Mohammed

The December LSAT numbers are down, but that is not entirely accurate this year because there were a number of test centers that canceled the test due to weather that weekend. The February LSAT numbers may go up as those people make it up. Or some may not bother. We'll have to see.

Nonetheless, it does appear that there will be less students enrolling in 2014-2015 than this current academic year. There isn't one trend anywhere that indicates otherwise.

It's going to be tough for some schools to survive with continuing declining enrollment.

Ham Sullivan


Nobody is disputing that grad school and law school enrollment has historically increased with downturns in the overall employment market for college graduates. What I think you are choosing to ignore, is the impact that the increasing cost of law school and the growing realization among college graduates that law school is a terrible gamble, is currently having, and will continue to have, on law school enrollment. It was understandable, back in the early 90s, for college graduates to ride out a bad employment market in law school. It cost half as much, and there was a general belief that a JD would prove to be valuable. Due to greater transparency in employment outcomes, it is becoming clearer to prospective students that law school has been a bad deal to the majority of recent graduates. To look at historical enrollment trends, without realizing these important realities, is to miss the forest for the trees.


Steve, perhaps you can provide that evidence I asked you for many moons ago that the employment opportunities for recently graduated BA's have increased commensurate with the absolutely massive drop in applications.

In the meantime, the rest of us in the real world can check out these "rational actors":


Let's look at opportunities near Professor Diamond.

At Santa Clara, only 54% of 2012 graduates reported full time jobs requiring bar passage and only half of those people reported having a salary at all. That means a full 75% of Santa Clara's 2012 class was unable to report having a full time law job with a salary!

Looking further, only an astonishing 11 students (4%) were employed in other professional jobs, despite living in arguably the best economic geography in the US - they Bay Area.

Its almost like JDs who choose to practice law have no legal future. And those that try to get out have have no advantage either, indeed perhaps they may be disadvantaged, despite living in a "booming" non-legal job market with both a BA and a JD.

I am genuinely curious if Professor Diamond can account for this phenomenon?


Unfortunately, Prof Diamond is not subject to teh rules of argument, as he lives, almost by his own admission, in a bubble - an insulated world where nonsense is seldom checked because those within it reinforce one another and condemn all without it who see the absence of clothes.
The frightening thing is that the situation will likely grow worse, because those within the bubble are in control, and very particular about who enters it. They decide on who enters based on things like "chemistry" and other attributes which are illegal to consider outside the bubble. This produces the self-perpetuating bubble that has led to the present unprecedented state of legal education (tuition increases beyond all sense of proportion while tangible value steadily declines; more and more law faculty completely incapable of legal practice and unaware of the mores of the profession they purport to teach while in fact hateful and spiteful toward it and those who do in fact possess the knowledge they lack).

Steve Diamond

This may be worth reading to help you figure out the situation you are facing as young lawyers:

And this is why of course the Caro Institute is a welcome home to the anti-law school attack.

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