Pop! Goes the Law School Bubble (Opinion)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The era of twenty-somethings blindly stampeding their way towards law school seems to be finally, mercifully, drawing to a close.

This past admissions cycle, amid a constant drumbeat of bad news about the health of the legal industry, it appears that fewer students sat down to take the LSAT than at any time in the past decade. In the last two years, the number of tests administered has dropped 24 percent, down to 129,925, from a peak of 171,514 in 2009-2010, according to the Law School Admission Council. 

As I've written before, the legal industry is stagnating, and suffers from a severe overabundance of young graduates, many of whom applied to law schools under the false pretenses that their degree would be an express ticket to a six figure salary. Instead, many graduates are now contending with six figures of crushing debt and murky career prospects. 

These new statistics are the latest evidence that young Americans are getting the hint that the market for lawyers is perhaps not what it once was. It wouldn't matter that fewer people were taking the LSAT if the same number of young folks were ultimately showing up for their first year of law school each fall. But that total seems to be dropping, too. According to the LSAC, the number of students who accepted admission to a law school dropped 8 percent last year, from 49,700, to 45,617 -- the smallest incoming class since at least 2002. (Last year's number isn't published on the Council's website yet, but was provided to me by a spokeswoman). The number of applications also dropped dramatically, which could force law schools to ease up on their mind bogglingly expensive tuition.

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