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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Entering 1L Classes Shrink 19% - 33%

Paul Campos (Colorado) reports:  "preliminary indications are that this year will feature even more stress on enrollment numbers, to the point where over the last few weeks word is beginning to trickle out regarding reduced class sizes at various schools, including:"

  • Texas (#16 in U.S. News):  -20% (300 in 2012 v. 375 in 2011)
  • Minnesota (#19):  -20% (220 v. 275)
  • Arizona (#43):  -21% (125 v. 158)
  • Wake Forest (#44):  -30% (130 v. 185)
  • UC-Hastings (#44):  -20% (320 v. 400)
  • Penn State (#76):  -23% (170 v. 220)
  • William Mitchell (#127):  -19% (250 v. 309)
  • Hamline (Tier 2):  -33% (134 v. 200)

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This is a great time to go to law school.

These students will get into a better school than they would have otherwise, get more scholarship, and will graduate with almost no competition--most likely into an economic recovery and booming demand for legal services.

Posted by: Anon | Aug 15, 2012 1:15:37 PM

I see that Anon is a shill for the law schools.

Posted by: jp | Aug 16, 2012 5:54:51 AM

Word on the street is that some schools actually OVER admitted and have a much larger class than they wanted -- rumor has it that Washington & Lee's incoming class is (unintentionally) is largest ever because its yield was unexpectedly high.

Posted by: minkheel | Aug 16, 2012 7:25:20 AM


Wake Forest's entering class in 2010 was 165, so the decline looks less dramatic in that perspective.

Posted by: Alfred | Aug 16, 2012 10:35:20 AM

Anon has obviously worked as a real estate agent (it is always "A Great Time to Buy!!")

No, d*psh*t, it *isn't* a good time to go to law school - there are *decades* of excess capacity to work off.

The law schools have been engaging in institutionalized fraud for decades - that is why there are over 1.4 *million* lawyers but only about 100k work for the NLJ 250 firms that actually pay salaries allegedly paid to "most" lawyers.

In law school land (Clintonian to its core), 7% is "most".

Posted by: cas127 | Aug 16, 2012 12:38:57 PM

I bet that people who started law school in 2009 also thought that they were doing it right, that the market would be roaring three years later.

Going to law school now is like buying real estate at the peak of the bubble just because you got a low interest rate and 3% down.

The legal profession is undergoing a fundamental transformation. As stated above, there are decades of excess lawyers to work off - one year of slightly lowered admissions won't help. (In fact, you could probably not graduate another law student for ten years and still be able to maintain the current level of legal services in America.) There's no point in going into an industry that is in the midst of a crisis; students would be better off waiting until it works itself out, then making decisions based on an understanding of what the profession will be like.

Posted by: Roxeanne de Luca | Aug 16, 2012 5:03:42 PM

I don't think the legal market will correct by 2015. As the post above notes, there's a considerable amount of excess capacity in the marketplace. Young lawyers compete with hundreds of applicants for a single job. That's not hyperbole. I know 2010 grads still looking for the first permanent legal job. A number of grads just jump between part-time or project-based work. I talk to grads from the "T14" all the time that struggle to find work.

I'd also point to a number of schools that seemingly over enrolled for the upcoming year.

Posted by: HTA | Aug 16, 2012 9:08:30 PM

There's no evidence of "decades of excess lawyers." Those with professional degrees have lower unemployment rates and are more likely to participate in the labor force than those with bachelor's degrees. They also earn much more.
Employment for lawyers has been growing--both in absolute terms and as a share of the labor force--and unemployment for lawyers is around 2-3%.

Those with JDs (not just lawyers, those with law degrees) earn far, far more than those with bachelors degrees in liberal arts fields alone--and the difference is enough to pay for law school 10 times over (after accounting for time value of money rather aggressively).
Student loan default rates for law graduates are much lower than default rates for college graduates from similarly ranked programs.

If anything, the market is telling us that there are too *few* lawyers or people with JDs.

The folks who are blogging to the contrary are the handful of people close to the very bottom of the legal profession.
Every profession has a distribution. There is always a bottom 10% or 5% or 1%. In law, the losers are very vocal and won't accept that they are losers--it must be the profession that is a loser, not they themselves.
But anyone who has looked at the data knows better. People who fail in law fail in spite of the odds, not because of them.

And do you know what losers hate more than anything? Competition from people who are better than them.

That's why they are trying to talk so many people out of going to law school. Not to help others, but to help themselves.

Posted by: Anon | Aug 17, 2012 4:08:58 AM

And my data, unlike the figures cited above, actually comes from a reliable source--the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The scam bloggers just make numbers up.

Posted by: Anon | Aug 17, 2012 4:11:57 AM

@ cas17

First, where are your numbers coming from?

Second, the BLS data shows the median lawyer makes $115K and the mean lawyer makes $130K+, and they estimate 600,000 lawyers, not the 100,000 figure you cite.

As for the other 400,000 or so people who have law degrees, many of them have gone on to jobs in business and finance or politics and government--which is what they intended to do all along--or dropped out of the workforce to raise kids or retire.

Of course most lawyers don't work at the NLJ 250 (The 250 biggest law firms in the country). Most people in finance don't work on Wall Street, and most accountants don't work for one of the big 4 accounting firms, and most doctors don't become Orthopedic Surgeons or Dermatologists.

But they find good jobs and make a good living.

Posted by: Anon | Aug 17, 2012 4:35:42 AM

The data:

Licensed Lawyers 2011: 1,245,205

BLS Data is based on: 570,950

So where is the BLS data on the missing 674,255 lawyers?

Posted by: jp | Aug 19, 2012 7:39:18 AM