TaxProf Blog

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

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Shrinking Law Schools Face Financial Devastation

Fiscal TimesThe Fiscal Times:  Shrinking Law Schools Face Financial Devastation, by Jonathan Beer:

The depressing state of the legal job market has caused applications to law schools to decline precipitously, resulting in a shortage of attorneys providing services to low-income clients and a glut of attorneys elsewhere. The situation will improve in the coming years as classes at law schools shrink class sizes to their lowest levels in decades, but the pain for lawyers is far from over. ...

The existing glut of lawyers will take time to dissipate, though. “Because far fewer students are enrolling — from 52,000 in 2010 down to 40,000 in 2013, and even lower for 2014 — the oversupply will lessen when they graduate in a few years,” writes Brian Tamanaha, a professor at the Washington University of St. Louis School of Law and the author of Failing Law Schools, in an email.

The pain for law schools could last longer. “The decline in applicants will devastate the financial position of many law schools, and it remains to be seen how they will manage,” Tamanaha wrote. “The number of entering students in 2014 will go down to a level not seen in three decades, when there were 50 fewer law schools.”

As a result, law schools such as [Dayton, Hamline, Vermont, and Widener] have laid off faculty while other law professors have been offered early retirement packages. The survival of some schools is in jeopardy, according to published reports.

Law schools are also trying to get graduates to consider other careers paths, such as government. Hiring at big law firms has tumbled as corporate America increasingly does its legal work in house. Thanks to services such as Legal Zoom, some legal services like drawing up simple wills, have become commoditized.

Meanwhile, poor people who need lawyers often can’t find them. Funding for these types of legal services, subsidized by the government, is not sufficient, according to the ABA.

Legal Education | Permalink


Disintermediation comes to the legal profession. This can only be good for the average person. On the other hand, were I pushing the legal profession, I'd start a campaign based on "Save problems later, see a lawyer first."

Posted by: BlogDog | Mar 16, 2014 6:48:11 AM

So sad. The nation is in desperate need of more lawyers. Lawyers, bank robbers, plastic surgeons, and child abusers.

Posted by: Archy Cary | Mar 16, 2014 7:42:16 AM

So, what's the problem?

Posted by: Skip | Mar 16, 2014 8:58:43 AM

As a retired lawyer, might I opine that legal services are subject to the same supply/demand laws as the sales of potatoes. Law schools are upstream of the market and are only now being hit by the excess of supply.

Posted by: jimbrock | Mar 16, 2014 11:05:57 AM

Hurray! But but, all these wonderful law professors are worth so much more on the private market- aren't they, aren't they?

Posted by: Hoxton | Mar 16, 2014 8:20:49 PM

There aren't enough jobs for law school graduates, so it makes sense for students not to attend law school.

The law of supply and demand is a law that law schools simply can't get around.

Posted by: Laura Rodham Obama | Mar 17, 2014 9:44:57 PM