Wall Street Journal, Law School Applications Keep Falling:
As the cost of law school rises and the number of entry-level legal jobs stagnates, the number of law-school applicants continues to fall.
According to the latest numbers from the Law School Admission Council, 50,269 people submitted applications to nationally accredited law schools as of last week, down 2.5% from the same time last year. Those would-be lawyers applied to an average of more than six schools per person, and the total volume of applications was down 4.6% from 2014. At this point in the year, LSAC says it usually has around 95% of the year’s data collected.
Law schools have adjusted by scaling back entry-level class sizes, boosting financial aid or cutting tuition price, and trimming staff ranks.
Al Brophy (North Carolina) believes that applications have hit the bottom and stabilized after years of declines, with enrollments projected at 36,000 for the incoming class. As a result, he predicts that "things are unlikely to get worse" and that no more than a dozen law schools will close:
For me one of the continuing questions is what does this decline in applicants mean for the fortunes of law schools. How will they adjust to the substantially smaller classes? And I've got to think that the decline in revenue will be greater than just the smaller number of students would suggest, because those attending will have more leverage in negotiating for financial aid. Schools are proving remarkably resilient, but perhaps we'll see some more closures (or mergers). (Though as close readers may recall, I think schools have a ways to go before they have to close.) Faculty salaries I should imagine will shrink. The easiest to cut are summer research grants, which I intuit are already on the way out at many schools. But I should also imagine that salaries are going to decline, too.
I think deans who are pleading the case of their schools to central administrations will use what appears to be a stabilization of applications as a sign that things aren't going to get a ton worse. They may not be improving any time in the near future, but if I were a dean involved in tough conversations about the future with my central administration I'd be arguing that applicants are stabilizing and that things are unlikely to get worse. That may not be good enough for some central administrations. My guess is that we're not going to see more than a dozen or so law schools close and that all of those will be in the "rank not published" tier of U.S. News.