Today’s Law School Student: Some Market Changes
It’s that time of year again -we know. Yes, that time of year when law school applications start to become available in the upcoming months. (For instance, Duke Law School begins accepting applications in September for the following year’s class. The deadline for Duke Law is mid February).
Since the 1980s, for over 25 years students enrolled in law schools in record numbers. With hit television shows such as L.A Law and the Paper Chase, and a booming economy that promised high-paying jobs for lawyers, students were anxious to join such an exciting and lucrative profession. Fast forward to the turn of the century and things changed quite a bit. Post 2000 students were still anxious to get law degrees. However, the economy was no longer great. College graduates found it increasingly difficult to find employment. In response, many decided to continue their education in hopes that a professional degree would make them more marketable. The result was that in 2010 over 52,000 students began law school– the highest number in history. In 2013 when those entering law school in 2010 graduated there simply were not enough jobs to support this many new lawyers. 2013 also saw a steep downturn in law school applications. According to the American Bar Association (ABA) in 2013 law school applications to ABA accredited law schools dropped by 11% to the lowest rate since the 1970s. So what does mean for the student contemplating applying to law school?
Applying to law school
Getting into law school has always been extremely competitive. However, with the number of applications down it may now be a little easier. Law schools are feeling the financial pressures brought on by fewer applicants and lower matriculation numbers. The drop in matriculation to law school has caused many law schools to lose a significant amount of tuition revenue. As a result law schools have seen their budgets shrink. In response some law schools are quietly relaxing their admissions criteria a little. “Borderline” students may be more likely to be accepted to some schools. Schools are less likely to have to choose between two equally qualified students, as there now may be seats for both.
This does not mean that applicants should take the law school application process less seriously. It does not mean that law schools will accept just about anyone who applies. Schools still maintain standards. Applicants should still strive to get the highest possible LSAT score and assemble top notch application packages. However, the chances of getting into law school may be somewhat better. The law schools that are on your “reach” list because your GPA and LSAT scores do not quite measure up may actually be well within your reach.
Post law school job prospects
While indicators are pointing to an economic turnaround, the economy is not enjoying the same vigor of 2 decades ago. There are simply not as many traditional law jobs as there once were. Many large law firms that thrived throughout the 1980s and 1990s no longer exist. Other firms have shrunk or experienced slow growth. However, there are still opportunities. While they may be fewer, there are jobs available in law firms of all sizes. Furthermore, since fewer students are graduating, there will hopefully be less competition for jobs. And since there will be a little less competition for seats in the top law schools, then students who end up at these top schools will have a better chance a securing highly sought after positions than if they had ended up at lower ranked schools.
In addition, law schools are quite aware about what has been occurring in the market. They are also quite sensitive to employment rates of their graduates. As a result, schools are now offering more practical courses such as clinics and externships to help increase the marketability of their graduates.
Today’s law students have a unique opportunity to take advantage of a seemingly bad situation to achieve what might have been a little more difficult a few years ago: get into a top law school and land a top job hopefully when the market picks back up. However, potential law school applicants should still do research and think carefully before applying to law school as it is significant commitment of time, energy and money.
This article was written by FindMyLawTutor.com.
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