Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Muller:  1L Enrollment Is At 42-Year Low

ABAFollowing up on yesterday's post, ABA Releases 2015 Standard 509 Information Reports For Every Law School:  Derek Muller (Pepperdine), Total Law School Enrollment at Lowest Point Since 1977; 1L Class Size Lowest Since 1973:

The ABA has recent released its statistics for the Class of 2018, or matriculation and law school enrollment for 2015. First-year matriculants totaled 37,058 at 204 ABA-accredited law schools. That's down from 52,488 in 2010. And that's the lowest number since 1973, when 37,018 matriculated to 151 law schools.

Legal Education | Permalink


I wasn't necessarily citing S&M, but rather just offering a possible explanation as to why there's been such a reduction of applicants/matriculants of those with pretty good, but not extremely elite, LSAT scores. You are right though that a large number of their arguments are red herrings and set up against strawmen.

Posted by: Cent Rieker | Dec 18, 2015 1:31:05 PM

And let's not forget the white elephant in the room: funding. It seems increasingly unlikely that Congress will keep unlimited GradPLUS around when it finally reauthorizes the Higher Education Act, which I suspect won't be until after the election. That is to say nothing of the endangered status of PSLF and PAYE. What will happen to the number of matriculants in a world where grad school lending has a lifetime cap of $150,000? Or is rolled all the way back to just the $20.5k annual Stafford limit? Will tens of thousands be willing to borrow $100k or $150k or $200k from a Sallie or Access, as they had to a decade ago? Will those entities be willing to lend $200k for Johnnie 138 to attend Cooley or Infilaw? It still astounds me that William Henderson is really the only professor talking about this: law schools could have their lights shut off by Congress in the blink of an eye. The strident tone taken by some defenders is only going to provide fuel for that fire.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Dec 18, 2015 12:39:31 PM

@Cent Rieker,

IIRC, the allegedly peer-reviewed (and therefore absolutely infallible, according to some of these law school defenders) S&M study set up an uncited postulation that there are no other options for people who go to law school - they simply are unable to get into B school or medical school or any other graduate program - and that is the strawman used to justify the direct JD to BA earnings comparisons while ignoring MBA or MD to JD earnings comparisons.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Dec 18, 2015 10:22:11 AM

McCarthy here,

Professor Diamond- I'll admit that I have no shame. BTW- I'm sure SOME of the accused actually were communists.

Now it is absolutely fair game to point out that all law schools only hire graduates from the most elite schools. If I was a prospective applicant, I would look at the list of faculty's alma maters and think, if this place is so great, then why wouldn't they hire one of their own? I'm sure there's someone who graduated at the top of (insert any law school, so it does not seem I'm picking on Santa Clara) who would make a capable law school professor.

You don't see this dichotomy in med school faculties.

Finally, one of your sentences was incomplete. "There is little question that students who attend Yale have different abilities and backgrounds (AND EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES) than those who attend SCU."

This could be why there is such a drop off in the upper middle of LSAT matriculants these days. Law is very pedigree obsessed, and also very hit-or-miss in terms of employment outcomes/quality of life. If you can't get a 170, there are plenty of other ways to make a living than being a lawyer.

Posted by: Cent Rieker | Dec 17, 2015 4:53:07 PM

Please consider actually reading the WSJ article.

Posted by: anon. 25 | Dec 17, 2015 3:24:18 PM

"The critics waited until AFTER the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression and then claimed their propaganda could explain the cyclical behavior of demand for the JD."

Wait. . . what?

Do you believe that the law school critics met in a command center carved out of a volcano to time their attack on the honest and reasonably paid law professors and administrators?

You're confusing cause and effect. The critics arose out of the high debt financed cost and the lack of good jobs to support that cost. If you all charged a reasonable rate, there would have been muted outrage.

You are not entitled to your own facts.

Posted by: terry malloy | Dec 17, 2015 2:41:39 PM

The kinds of objections raised by the above commenters have been addressed in many other settings. For the enlightenment of the few who still profess not to understand the issues let me note briefly the following:

1) Where I teach is not relevant to the arguments I make here and have made elsewhere about law school. With relatively few exceptions (like my alma mater, perhaps) all law schools have been impacted by the ups and downs in demand for the JD. Engaging in this kind of argument is akin to asserting some kind of (misguided) guilt by association reminiscent of the McCarthy era. It is not an appropriate form of argument in an academic or professional setting.
2) It is also the case that the first commenter makes the mistake of imposing an absolute standard when a relative standard is the appropriate frame. That is, while Yale might have a 99% first time bar passage rate it is not a failing that SCU has a 65% pass rate. There is little question that students who attend Yale have different abilities and backgrounds than those who attend SCU. The only question is whether the time spent at SCU enable those students to exploit their abilities effectively. The Simkovic-McIntyre data demonstrate the value of the JD well into the left hand side of the distribution.
3) The suggestion that an 8-year old single article from the Wall Street Journal no less should lead anyone to think they understand the dynamics of the legal employment market is laughable. Emperor Caron should save such commenters the embarrassment they are forced to suffer by editing their comments in advance!
4) Please see Mike Simkovic’s assessment of the WSJ biases here:
5) My conclusion about the market for lawyers is based on a review of Labor Department data about actual historical salaries and employment not projections and you can find my assessment of that data here: and
6) Of course I would have qualms about any kind of fraud but of course that turned out to be an urban myth. Court after court has confirmed this (the case against Thomas Jefferson is as yet undecided but at best might prove to be the exception that proves the rule). I skewered this idea early on in the law school debate here:
7) The ups and downs in demand for a JD remain independent of the steady increase in lawyer employment and income. These ups and downs have been part of the market for law schools for many decades as LSAC and ABA data show. They have nothing to do with the braying of opportunistic groups like LST and their few friends in law school academia. One is reminded of the statement about George W. Bush: he was born on third and thought he hit a triple. The critics waited until AFTER the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression and then claimed their propaganda could explain the cyclical behavior of demand for the JD.

Posted by: Steve Diamond | Dec 17, 2015 2:17:26 PM

Professor Diamond,

(1) The following WSJ article seems to disagree with your statement "There has been a steady increase in [lawyer] incomes for several decades": Do you think the WSJ and its sources are wrong about this?

(2) Also, regarding your statement "The hysteria that has gripped the critics of law school enrollment fails to persuade." I am curious, do you have no qualms about schools fraudulently and deceptively reporting starting salaries in a way that portrays, say $110K as a likely first year starting salary, when in reality for that given school the number might be closer to $55K?

(3) And finally, do you really think this fraud has created only a "few" disgruntled law grads? It's clear that the significant drop in enrollment corresponds directly with the timing of the salary data scam being eviscerated. Clearly, tens of thousands of law students were effected by this over many years (not just a few).

Posted by: anon. 25 | Dec 17, 2015 10:05:18 AM

Professor Diamond,
Santa Clara's July 2008 California bar passage rate was 83%. Its July 2014 one was 60% (and I'd wager all the money in my pocket that its 2015 one was closer to 60 than to 80). Care to explain how Santa Clara Law School (is that the 'my school' you refer to, or is it Yale Law, where you graduated) meets the "rising demand for legal services" when its classes are not as successful at passing the bar?? Curious minds would like to know.

Posted by: Cent Rieker | Dec 17, 2015 8:14:27 AM

The hysteria that has gripped the critics of law school enrollment fails to persuade. There has been a steady increase in both the number of lawyers employed in the US and their incomes for several decades. These steady increases have happened independent of the demand for admission to law school.

There is no (serious as opposed to the LST variety) research demonstrating why that demand ebbs and flows independent of the demand for legal services. As I pointed out in a review of Tamanaha's book (available on SSRN) he failed to demonstrate that law schools manipulate enrollment.

It should surprise no one that law schools that have been in place for many decades (or more than a century in the case of my law school) would not willy nilly go out of business to satisfy the disgruntled few among recent law school graduates. Given the steadily rising demand for legal services (see the comments of the late Nobelist Gary Becker) those deciding to go to law school now will in all likelihood benefit quite handsomely.

When the market turns again no doubt law schools will become more selective (Colorado included) although somehow I doubt we will hear huzzahs from the law school critics.

Posted by: Steve Diamond | Dec 16, 2015 4:42:26 PM

Over at Faculty Lounge, hyper privileged over paid (white?) failed academic Paul Campos writes: "Of course there's a long tradition in American culture of hyper-privileged white males lecturing women and ethnic minorities about what policies are actually good for women and ethnic minorities, and then claiming that any disagreement with the views of the former is "really" motivated by racism or sexism."

He knows whereof he speaks having declared at his own cesspool website that the black leaders of Black Lives Matter are too privileged to be the victims of racism:

And who can forget his snidely implied suggestion that the alleged imbalance between supply and demand in the new JD market could be solved by keeping women out of law school?

Posted by: anon | Dec 16, 2015 2:48:18 PM

No, pmk, you should not criticize a school because a law school critic works there. Rather, you should criticize the same lack of job placement success at any school *regardless* of who works there.

Or explain why the double standard.

Posted by: Anon | Dec 16, 2015 11:16:30 AM

"The 'scambloggers' syllogism is as follows . . . "

I disagree. I think the one thing the scambloggers all agree on is that starting salary statistics should not be fraudulently or deceptively reported as double the real numbers (which sadly is what took place at many schools for about a decade).

Posted by: anon. 25 | Dec 16, 2015 10:44:22 AM

Whereas an 'establishment' syllogism would be as follows:
1) Any student should be able to go to law school regardless of ability because if they cannot, it's paternalism
2) But if a decent school admits more decent candidates, we need to criticize that school based on not having good enough placement because a law school critic teaches there, which means that we think some paternalism is good?

Yes, that makes just as much sense.

Posted by: pmk | Dec 16, 2015 10:33:01 AM

Oh, I forgot Point 4: although individual faculty members at certain schools are to be condemned regardless of whether they hold an administrative position regarding admissions (Diamond, Leiter), there are exceptions per Lonnie's point ("Prof. Campos been promoted to Dean of admissions?")

Posted by: anon | Dec 16, 2015 9:34:49 AM


The "scambloggers" syllogism is as follows:

(1) Law schools have damaged their students and the profession by admitting too many students;

(2) They should be excoriated, shut down, and condemned in the strongest terms possible because they did so to use students as federal loan conduits to line their own pockets, because they could;

(3) Points 1 and 2, however, only apply to certain schools: if it happens to be a school perceived to be elite or a school where one of their heroes works, then no problem.

Posted by: anon | Dec 16, 2015 9:33:06 AM

Lonnie - I do not think Professor Campos has been promoted to Dean of Admissions. Neither has the Professor at Santa Clara who is targeted by Campos in his blog post. It is part of Campos' shtick to point out, whenever he is attacking someone "but here are the stats from their school..."

Posted by: Bushy | Dec 16, 2015 9:22:29 AM


I disagree with the premise of your 7:55:26 comment. The goal of a school should be to place its graduates into good careers. Not to enroll a class with as high of LSAT/GPA as possible.

The problem is that CU placed 115 students into FT/LT positions in 2014. However, while knowing their capability to place their grads into this legal market, they enrolled 204 1Ls this year.

I think that deserves some degree of criticism. (Referring to CU of course, not Prof. Campos himself.)

Posted by: jlb | Dec 16, 2015 9:05:15 AM

@Bushy Has Prof. Campos been promoted to Dean of admissions? If so, congratulations to him.

Posted by: Lonnie | Dec 16, 2015 9:04:31 AM

Yes, Bushy, but enrollment is only part of what's being discussed. Colorado has more or less maintained student quality over the past few years as opposed to Santa Clara's gong show, and Santa Clara's 75th percentile student now is Colorado's 25th percentile student.

Posted by: pmk | Dec 16, 2015 7:55:26 AM

PMK and all the other Campos fans out there should take a look at Muller's other chart showing how much schools have dropped enrollment since 2011: Campos' school, the University of Colorado, has increased class size by more than 25% -- the third largest increase after Wyoming and Arizona State.

Practice what you preach.

Posted by: Bushy | Dec 16, 2015 6:21:05 AM

Campos also points out that the number of males entering law school is the lowest since 1962. As a percentage of the population, it must be the lowest in history. Law is increasingly becoming a pink collar profession dominated by females, like nursing and teaching. I think the partnership at large law firms will always be predominately male because they are the only ones with the willingness and ability to devote the requisite hours, but down the line, and especially in Govt positions, women will occupy 70+ percent of the jobs.

Posted by: JM | Dec 16, 2015 6:03:18 AM

And, as Paul Campos pointed out, "Santa Clara Law School, which, undaunted by the raging dumpster fire that is the market for entry-level attorneys in California in general, and the Bay Area in particular, increased the size of its first-year class by an impressive 69%. It achieved this feat, in part, by becoming the newest member of the exclusive 75/25 club. These are law schools that have slashed admissions standards to the point that the 25th percentile LSAT for their entering class five years ago is now higher than the 75th percentile for their current entering class. A quarter of SCU’s 2010 entering class had an LSAT of 158 or lower, while today a quarter of the entering class has an LSAT of 157 or higher."

Yay Steve Diamond.

Posted by: pmk | Dec 16, 2015 5:27:32 AM