Will Law School Enrollment Increase in the Near Future?

by Tali Thomason on April 23, 2015

By Melanie Fischer, Guest Blogger


Can you imagine a world in which there are not enough lawyers? Just a decade ago, it was common for people in the legal industry to be heard talking about the hoards of people entering law school each year. They worried about the legal industry being inundated with young attorneys, and they wondered where everyone graduating from law school would find a job.

But, today, the story has changed. People are no longer enrolling in law school en masse, and law school enrollment has been down for the past several years. In fact, several published articles quote the American Bar Association as stating, “First-year enrollments have plunged almost 28 percent since 2010 and stand at their lowest level since 1973.”

With law school enrollment at a level not seen since the early 1970s, how will the legal industry be affected? Several organizations, journals, and associations have recently been investigating this issue and publishing articles about it. Following are a few thoughts and ideas:

  • According to the Indianapolis Business Journal’s article, ‘No Relief’ for Law School Enrollment Slump, “Indiana’s law schools are not replacing retiring faculty, spending more on recruiting, creating programs for non-attorney types of legal education, and experimenting with an educational approach that responds to what many see as permanent shifts in demand for legal services.”
  • An article on NewYorkTimes.com, A Steep Slide in Law School Enrollment Accelerates, “Part of the problem is that jobs that once required lawyers — for sifting through documents before a trial, for instance — are increasingly being automated. Do-it-yourself services, like LegalZoom, are gaining popularity with consumers.”
  • According to the Yale Law School’s website, “Law school is expensive. With tuition exceeding $40,000 per year at top private law schools, many prospective students worry about how they will pay for their student loans after graduation.”

Will Law School Enrollment Turn Around?
While it’s difficult to say with certainty whether the current drop in law school enrollment will persist into the foreseeable future, low enrollment today might equate to unique opportunities for tomorrow’s aspiring lawyers. A fundamental shift in the legal industry may provide increased chances for attorneys to work in new, innovative legal sectors that are still in their infancy stage.

Additionally, practicing Baby Boomer attorneys will eventually retire. This may cause a spike in demand for young, fresh attorneys – which could theoretically result in a drastic increase in the number of individuals applying to law school in the not-too-distant future.

According to direct quotes from an article recently published on Slate.com, Now is a Great Time to Apply to Law School, the following are important facts for aspiring lawyers to consider:

  • After several wretched post-recession years, the job market for new law school graduates may be on the verge of a recovery.
  • It seems the legal job market has begun to stabilize.
  • Right now, law school looks like a stock that crashed too far after a panic, and is suddenly a bit undervalued. It’s a good time to buy.

Is attending law school an obsolete idea? Absolutely not. But individuals debating whether to pursue a career as an attorney have a lot to consider – – possibly more than aspiring attorneys did just a few decades ago.


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