Monday, February 4, 2013
There was a lot of press last week about this year's dramatic fall in law school applicants. LawProf and I noted the carnage a few weeks ago: Law schools are about to hit a 30-year low in the number of applicants. ... From a peak of 100,000 applicants, reached in both 1991 and 2003, applicants this year will drop below 60,000--and almost certainly below 55,000. ...
As the number of college graduates increased, the tally of law school applicants should have increased or at least remained steady. Instead, when measured as a percentage of college graduates, law school applicants have declined significantly over the last twenty years:
... [T]he drop in law school applicants is not cyclical; it's not related to the recession and jobless recovery; it's not even based solely on the most recent contraction in the legal market. College graduates have been losing interest in law school--compared to other graduate programs or workplace opportunities--for the last twenty years.
What accounts for that decline? During those same two decades, law school tuition has risen extravagantly:
... With poor placement rates, increased transparency about job outcomes, and ongoing shifts in legal practice, it will be very difficult for law schools to reverse this twenty-year trend. If we hope to do so, we have to look candidly at the roots of our long-term slide. One of those roots surely is the price of legal education. Rising cost, falling demand. Simple market economics.