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October 23, 2014


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Thanks for the update Al! The drop in LSAT takers really is staggering. Almost 61,000 students took the October LSAT in 2009/10, nearly double the number from this year. It may be about time for another Moody's credit downgrade for law schools across the country.


Just some further info -- you note that the decline in first time takers was larger in June at 14 percent. For September, the first time taker decline was smaller at 3 percent.


I keep thinking that even if things leveled off next year, a huge number of schools have got to be deeply in the red.


Re: Barry's comment. For the law schools, even a leveling off doesn't solve anything for at least three years. Graduating classes (those that entered three years ago) are almost uniformly larger than the entering ones. Consequently, most law schools will continue face significant drops in their tuition revenue every year for the immediate future as those larger classes are replaced with smaller entering ones.

And that's even without considering the increased price discounts that consumers (students) are demanding from the suppliers (law schools).


JPQ, what is your source for that 3% figure?


One can only hope that the AAUP and the ABA will accept the situation and try to make the best of it. Demanding that schools go bankrupt before accepting any change is not right. When the ABA lectures on ethics, they need to look in the mirror. The Committee on Legal Education should have more law school trustees, and fewer representatives from diploma mills.

Nathan A

I wonder if the June and October declines are more a sign of the labor market picking up for young college graduates than students/families become more debt averse.


Wow, students applying to law school now will have their pick of jobs. Good for them but bad for the Judiciary and Law Firms. Which do you think won't be able to fill all its openings? I'm betting law firms are going to have to push salaries well over $200,000 just to fill all their positions. Even then it will be tough with the competition from JD advantage jobs, public interest and government.

One the plus side, it'll be paradise for the students.


"I wonder if the June and October declines are more a sign of the labor market picking up for young college graduates than students/families become more debt averse."

When economic times are hard, enrollment drops because the economy slows down and there are fewer jobs. When economic times "pick up" (what a laugh that is), enrollment drops because the UGs have other options.

In other words, this drop in enrollment has nothing to do with the economy.

However reactionary and stubborn legal academia may be, at some point, reality will force reform or closures in the lower tiers.

Meanwhile, of course, those at the top of the pile will survive. There will always be life boats enough for the first class travelers on the Titanic, who will look down their noses at the drowning and say good riddance.

So sad, because it is the standard set by those at the top of legal academia (just as it was the fault of the designers of that famous ship who thought so highly of themselves) that is destroying the reputation and perceived worth of legal education. Those who know nothing about the practice of law are reaping what they have sown.

Meanwhile, those responsible for this decline debate with one another about how better to abuse the only source of help they've got. Again, it is just so sad because all this was so preventable.


Anon at 8:36, how was this preventable? Not certain what you mean.



"Have their pick of jobs?" "$200,000" "paradise?"

I hope this is a sarcastic barb at the law schools. It is about as far divorced from the reality of practice today as you can get. Frankly, the entirety of the ABA accredited law academy could mothball their institutions for the duration of the next Presidential administration before any "shortage" would appear.

There's a glut of law grads. There's a glut in practicing lawyers. There's even a glut of would be lawyers who aren't in the law labor force. The market is saturated.

About 50 schools need to close. Before you recoil and gasp, academic reader, consider this. In the last twelve years, there have been 20 new ABA acredited law schools. When PAYE gets limited or changed, as many as 100 schools could be toast. You are amid what your jurisprudential scholars call an existential crisis caused by what you law and Econ types know as a structural market change.

This is good news. The profession hasn't been stable, professional, or happy since the mid-1980s. This change will mean a smaller but leaner profession.

Nathan A

anon @ 8:36 PM

"When economic times are hard, enrollment drops because the economy slows down and there are fewer jobs."

What on earth are you talking about? ALL fields of graduate study are usually deluged with applications during an economic downturn because people are trying to hide from the recession by going to school. See the uptick in LSATs administered in the early 90s, right after the dotcom crash, and right after the 2008-2009 recession.


As numerous studies have shown, a JD is a valuable degree. Sooner or later students will realize that and return in droves. The current process is just cyclical. What is important is not to lose focus on the long-term. Keeping faculties and scholarship strong for th err time when the pendulum of student applications swings the other way should be of prime importance.


Anon at 9:12

I would love for someone to say exactly that in every law school planning meeting around the country. If law schools do not get leaner right now, they will be in very serious danger of closing in the next five years. The effect of the application decline is going to be very acute, and there will will be no time to adjust later.

Nathan A

JM, I think you're getting trolled.


LSAT statistics are an unfortunate sign of the commoditization of education. Educational institutions, especially law schools, are economic engines for communities. There should be broad support for these even during supposed lean times when values are misconstrued.


Nathan A,

Yeah, I assumed that was sarcasm, but since it is exactly what most faculty actually believe it served the same purpose as a sincere comment.


Nathan A

How do you account for the steady decline in applications since 2010?

Was the economy fully recovered by 2010?

Moreover, correlation, even if there was one, is not proof of causation in any event, and you have a very weak case in showing that applications soar in bad economic times and decline sharply in "good" economic times.

That is just a story some tell themselves to avoid the truth about the law school academy, not a fact. It ranks up there with the junk "S&M" report, which "discovered" the amazing fact that historically a graduate education in the professions has added earning power, but ignored the ongoing changes in the legal profession and academy.

How was all this preventable? Well, I'm sure the Wall Street folks all ask the same question about their debacle: they repeat the same mistakes and learn nothing, because their arrogance, egomania and cushy perches prevent them from seeing the truth about their own culpability.

Nathan A

anon @ 01:17 PM

Not sure where the misdirected anger comes from, but maybe dialing it back a little will help everyone out.

So first, let us go back to what you said .... "When economic times are hard, enrollment drops because the economy slows down and there are fewer jobs. When economic times "pick up" (what a laugh that is), enrollment drops because the UGs have other options."

So enrollment drops irrespective of economic conditions? Clearly, you want this to be so, but it sure doesn't bear out in the data. As far as my assertion that applications for graduate study soar during a recession, let us just say that I am more comfortable assuming causation in that instance than I would be in the assertion that "enrollment drops because the economy slows down and there are fewer jobs." So college graduates prefer unemployment to graduate school?


"How do you account for the steady decline in applications since 2010?"

As you might recall, the economy was adding jobs in 2010. Granted job growth wasn't remotely at the level necessary to quickly counteract the effects of the recession, but there was job growth. I wouldn't be surprised if the stories about deferrals, no offers, law school debt, etc .... also played a significant role in the decline in applications to law schools. In fact, I think it was the latter more than the former. Especially since the unemployment rate for young college graduates did not fall as quickly as it did for other groups between 2010 and 2014.

Like a lot of people I assumed that the decline law school applicants was slowing down. That is why I was surprised that the June and October administrations showed larger declines than the previous year. Hence my wondering whether the job outlook for college graduates is improving.


Nathan A, I think you are exactly right that recessions tend to generate more graduate school applications, while economic upturns generate fewer. However, barring extreme economic events, these effects are really at the margins.

What we are seeing now is some completely different than any downturn in history, and is driven by completely different factors: namely, (1) debt and (2) alternative media. Huge levels of student debt is the underlying reason why so many recent graduates are unhappy, and alternative media (social media in particular) gives them a platform to express their discontent in a way that they never had before. If every disgruntled graduate reaches an average of 30 people with the message, it really starts to permeate the general consesus. Even if they don't directly communicate the message, via Facebook everyone they know can easily monitor their failure, which adds exponentially to the number of people who will change their impression of law school and become more aware of the risks.

Transparency is the new order, and law school have to take up the challenge to become places that enhance the lives of their graduates rather than destroy them. Until they do, they can expect declines far deeper than what we have seen to date.

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