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Monday, December 24, 2012
Law Schools Approaching Fiscal Cliff?
While the U.S. Congress may still have a few days to settle some serious budgetary issues and avert the so-called fiscal cliff, it may be too late for U.S. law schools. It hasn't been a good few years for them.
For the 2013-2014 school year, the number of applicants to law schools has taken a free fall of around 22%. The number of applications has fallen by about 24%, meaning that fewer students are applying and they are applying to fewer schools.
There are caveats, of course. It is still early in the admissions cycle. The Law School Admission Council (LSAC), which tracks these kinds of stats, does it for American Bar Association accredited schools, meaning that non-accredited or state accredited schools aren't tabulated. The numbers, however, are symbolic. They are also deeply reflective of the blowback from a woeful job market for law school graduates.
Finally, it seems, word has gotten out that digging oneself into six-figure debt for a prestigious education does not always pay off.
Some argue that this reduction in volume of law school applicants could be a welcome change for an over-saturated profession. What remains to be seen is how law schools will adjust for the downturn; spreading their losses may cause law school to become an even more expensive endeavor. However, for those undeterred by all the negative publicity, now might be one of the best times to apply to law schools. Competition is down in both quantity and quality. The LSAC is also seeing a downturn in LSAT scores, with the largest drop-off in the upper tiers. That is, the number of people scoring in the highest range has dropped the most.
Small class sizes at the highest-ranked law schools mean that it's less likely the decline will be felt at those levels. If you never had a chance at getting into Yale law, you probably still don't. Yet the decrease in competition could open doors for many driven and optimistic candidates. And what profession doesn't need more of those?
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