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February 10, 2015


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Finally, law professors have woken up and realized that they like other businesses must do marketing and customer development.


Law school critic here, but the decline seems to be bottoming out.


Anonymouse, I think it is still too early to make that call. The numbers have been quirky lately. I still think we'll see a decline between 6-8% this year, which is significant. What happens next year is anyone's guess.


Marketing and customer development don't get you very far when so few law professors have had the sorts of jobs that students want after graduation or even care about anything but their law review articles. It's all a big joke.


Adding to JM’s note, look at LSAT administration. Acceleration of the decline may be tailing off, but that doesn’t mean overall attendance will level out.
Perhaps a less competitive market for TTT admission drives fewer retakes, but so long as the LSAT continues declining, expect there to be a reduction in applicants.
There’s a generational aspect to this. Millenials’ parents used the generic examples of good jobs as “doctors and lawyers.” Younger generations’ generic example of a good job will be doctors alone. As long as the profession loses its reputation/prestige, don’t expect a stabilization or significant increase to pre-2009 levels.


Anon at 10:23. Actually millenials have expanded good jobs to include allied medical fields (nurse practitioner, physician's assistant, PT, OT), software/web work and even CPA.


@ anon123, those are good jobs, but they are still considered middle class jobs. Doctors and Lawyers used to occupy a status as the quintessential upper class jobs. That doesn't apply across the board to attorneys anymore since pretty much anyone can obtain the degree and it leads to poverty and unemployment far more often than wealth.


What is problematic, but interesting, is how the number of applications feeds into the offer number, and that in turn to the enrollment rate.


Further on my earlier post - it is hard to know if the number is accurate - but as I raised on the last report, one question is how the number of applications and the number of applicants feeds through into enrolled law students and ultimately to lawyers passing the bar exam

Although it is fair to say that some law schools have decayed to the point where they genuinely appear to have open enrolment - this is not yet true of the majority of law schools. Not all applicants send their applications to say Florida International, rather sending their applications to schools that are at least 'marginally' selective. This is why last year there was a just under 80% acceptance rate (too high I think, but still it means that 20% did not get an offer.) Similarly, of those who get accepted only about 85% actually enrol.

This leads to the general conclusion that even assuming arguendo that there are 51,000 applicants or thereabouts, that will result in some 34,000 enrolled students (and down the line to some 25-26,000 new lawyers.)

However, it would seem to me that the shrinkage at each step in the process may be effected by the measures law schools are taking to keep up applicants numbers - not to mention the possible impact on tuition revenue and its concomitant impact on the financial stability of law schools.

As for my view as to when the decline will "bottom out" - when law graduate numbers are some 20% or more below the market for the graduates - so somewhere around 15-18,000 - then numbers will start to rise to somewhere around anticipated demand. That translates to around 40,000 applicants - or a further 20% decline. If this had been an 8% decline we would be about 2-3 years away from that point.



I think your reasoning is sound. I don't believe applicants will give law schools the opportunity to accept more than 80% of the pool, so that number will stay where it is. What this means is that any further decline in applicants will come straight out of enrollment. In the past, schools had the option to become less selective to mitigate the drop in enrollment.

I think there will be a hard drop in applicants until about 45,000. This will happen over the next three years. Then I think it will continue to deteriorate at the rate of about 1%/year. The problem for schools is that massive number of graduates continue to see poor outcomes. Even finding equilibrium with grads/employment will not solve the problem because of the student debt issue.

The wild card is the consequences the schools will face for accepting students far below their traditional standards. Will this lead to massive bar exam failures? Will employers lose confidence in the brand? Will grads be less capable of making it out on their own? I expect the answer to all three questions to be "yes."

I also think there is an emerging trend for students to ignore the US News rankings outside of the top 30 and attend the school that offers them the lowest price. This has the potential to do a lot of damage to schools since almost every prospective gets a full or near full scholarship somewhere.

In short, there isn't any light at the tunnel for schools, and there won't be until they fix the fundamental problem of price.

Just saying...

Last night I met a partner from a very well known and respected Biglaw firm. He said that, once again, his firm is not bringing in any summer associates because of the lack of growth in business. He sees no end in sight.

I think those who have seen this environment as just another cyclical dip have it wrong. I think we are seeing a fundamental shift in both the perception and reality of the law as a profession.


That partner's firm is in trouble, then. My significant other is a lawyer at a top firm in a major market. I understand that with maybe a few exceptions, the entire office is running at fully capacity (merger and deal work are especially active, as is IP and general commercial litigation) and her friends at competing firms report the same. Those firms certainly have plans to hire summer associates and their classes should be at least as large, if not larger, than last year.


Hiring more than last year is a red herring. Because fewer than 60% of law students obtain the sort of positions that require a law degree—the only reason a matriculant should attend law school in the first place--modest improvement in the market is unimpressive. The rampant overproduction of “lawyers” is nowhere close to market equilibrium.

Thanks, Anon, but I’d prefer look at this realistically rather than with rose colored glasses. The former manages expectations of law students; the latter only benefits Sallie Mae.


Yes, summer associate hiring has steadily been increasing. Things are certainly not at pre-2008 levels but are much, much better than in previous years. While some segments may still be reeling from the effects of the Great Recession, corporate America -- and therefore law firms -- has been witnessing tremendous profitability.


Yep, all's well for the wall street types.

Funny how politics works, isn't it?


Yes, law firm salaries and bonuses show that corporate America is doing just fine.


Of course. "Law firms" only exist in mega size, serving the interests of corporate America, and those interests are doing just fine (thanks to massive federal support and the certainty of further bailouts for the next major fail).

No others exist. There is no other reality, except, as stated above, when it comes to politics.

Derek Tokaz

Regarding growth at the large firms, it's important to look at what areas are expanding. If it's work on forming partnerships, venture capital, and patents, then that's a good sign for the future. Litigation, not so much. It's good in the short term for firms, but litigation represents a net loss to the business community (lawyers taking out their fees). A less productive economy ultimately hurts law firms.


Merger and deal work are especially active, as is IP.

That's reassuring. Bascially, FULL EMPLOYMENT!!!

Appls will be skyrocketing very soon now.


I don't think the poster above is suggesting full employment; instead, only that law firm hiring has stabilized and is amplifying, which does seem to be the case. Also, starting salaries continue to be exceptionally high.

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