Paul L. Caron

Thursday, December 6, 2012

NY Times: This Is a Good Time to Apply to Law School

NY Times DealBookNew York Times DealBook:  In Lean Times for Law Schools, an Opportunity, by Jonathan D. Glater (UC-Irvine):

Law school has been in the news a bit lately, as the number of applicants declines and the difficulty of finding a six-figure salary commensurate with six-figure student loans has grown. The counterintuitive implication, hinted at in an Op-Ed article last week, is that this is a good time to apply to law school. Now, I am conflicted on this; I teach at a law school and so have a vested interest in the survival of legal education. But this is math.

First, if fewer people are applying to law school, then there is less competition over all for spots. The number of Law School Admission Tests, or LSATs, administered has fallen steadily ... The number of applicants to law schools accredited by the ABA has also fallen steadily. ... Close study of the admission council’s data reveals an intriguing wrinkle: the number of test-takers earning higher scores on the LSAT has declined more than the number of students who earn lower scores. ... That means that an applicant who scores well may have a better shot of getting into a highly selective institution than in years past, and perhaps of getting a more generous aid package as a result of competition over students with high scores. ...

[T]he decline in interest in legal education is likely the result of different trends. The cost has soared; the so-called sticker price of attending law school now approaches $50,000 for each year in a typical, three-year program. Students may be reluctant to borrow when their employment prospects after graduation appear very uncertain. Those who thought of law school as a haven to ride out a downturn may have reconsidered in light of the risk of student loan debt. The prolonged downturn, which has not spared law firms, also must play a role. The legal profession no longer appears to offer a guarantee of upper-middle class security, especially to those with sizable debts. ...

Yet in every crisis, there is an opportunity. Bankruptcy law, anyone?

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