Law School Applications Decline 10%

The New York Times reports that law school applications this year are down about 10%. Maybe there will be a late run of applicants, but if applications decline again this year (like they did last year), possible explanations include:

* better economic times means more/better jobs for prospective students (increasing the opportunity cost of law school and giving more students a way to productively allocate their time)

* students feel like they already have too much education-related debt, which increases the pressure to make sure law school is the right choice

* more students are interested in medical school (med school applications are up)

* no recent hot lawyer-oriented TV shows or movies (i.e., no The Practice or Legally Blonde or even Ally McBeal or Ed; and the Law & Order fervor may have cooled off)

* my favorite explanation comes from David Kelly (who is responsible for a number of the TV shows that have driven people to law school): “The more lawyers there are, the more people are out there to encourage others not to go to law school”

Whatever the case, the decrease in applications could have significant repercussions. A smaller applicant pool means that there are fewer students with GPAs/LSATs that help a school’s US News rankings. Competition for these students should get even fiercer.

At the same time, I’ve noticed a minor trend towards schools shrinking their entering class size. Reduced enrollments helps schools control entering students’ GPA/LSAT numbers by trying to avoid matriculating the bottom X% of incoming students (as measured by numbers). However, this is also a costly management tool because fewer incoming students means less revenue for the school/university. Nevertheless, if the applicant pool is shrinking and most schools want to avoid lower entering GPAs/LSATs, entering class sizes–and law school budgets–will have to shrink.

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