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Entering law school class smallest since 1973


academy award

The ABA released 2015 enrollment stats today. A few high or low lights:

*Total first year enrollment this fall was 37,058, which is almost exactly the same number of 1Ls who enrolled in the fall of 1973. There were, however, 151 ABA-approved law schools at that time, meaning the average entering first year class had 245 students. Now there are 204 such schools, meaning the average entering first year class has 182 students.

*152,831 first years enrolled between 2009 and 2011. Over the last three years, total first year enrollment was 114,627. This is a decline of exactly 25%. Applicant totals were down 29.9%.

*Total JD enrollment this fall is 113,900. This is the lowest total since 1977.

*The last time fewer men enrolled in law school than this fall was probably 1962.

*This year’s Scamblog Sinverguenza Award — known affectionately to members of the academy as “the Cooley” — goes to none other than LGM favorite Steve Diamond’s Santa Clara Law School, which, undaunted by the raging dumpster fire that is the market for entry-level attorneys in California in general, and the Bay Area in particular, increased the size of its first-year class by an impressive 69%. It achieved this feat, in part, by becoming the newest member of the exclusive 75/25 club. These are law schools that have slashed admissions standards to the point that the 25th percentile LSAT for their entering class five years ago is now higher than the 75th percentile for their current entering class. A quarter of SCU’s 2010 entering class had an LSAT of 158 or lower, while today a quarter of the entering class has an LSAT of 157 or higher. SCU’s California bar passage rate fell by 22% between 2011 and 2014, and, given that the bottom quarter of the 2014 graduating class had similar credentials to the top quarter of the entering class of 2015, that percentage is likely to go a good deal lower.

Congratulations Santa Clara!

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  • Lamont Cranston

    today a quarter of the entering class has an LSAT of 157 or higher

    This is a staggering figure. If you’re filling in bubbles at random on the test you should get a 150. Given how learnable this test is, the people who enroll in law school with this type of LSAT score have demonstrated both poor test-taking ability and incredibly poor judgment.

    • CJColucci

      As someone who took the LSATs when they were on an 800-point scale (using a quill pen), how does this translate?

  • Joshua

    And still not a single law school has closed. That’s amazing.

    • postmodulator

      I thought some branches of bigger law schools had closed or merged or something.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      Apparently the entering students are not the only “suckers” in this story.

    • There are a lot of law schools that should close, but the ones that really, really should close are the ones that are not part of any larger university, and those aren’t going away any time soon.

    • CJColucci

      We need those schools for the slower affirmative action students.

    • nocutename

      And still not a single law school has closed. That’s amazing.

      This is the part I don’t get. Look at these stats from the post:

      There were, however, 151 ABA-approved law schools at that time, meaning the average entering first year class had 245 students. Now there are 204 such schools, meaning the average entering first year class has 182 students

      Why don’t the legit schools (say the top 100) go all out against the scammers? Why would a University of [insert state here] tighten its belt so a Cooley can carry on, when it wouldn’t have to do so if a Cooley shut down.

      These bottom feeder schools both harm the bottom line and make all law schools look bad.

  • shah8

    OT, for djw and housing crisis enthusiasts. I think this is an important argument against assuming zoning, parking restrictions, or multifamily housing are central to the dilemma of affordable home ownership: http://www.pieria.co.uk/articles/new_build_supply_a_panacea

  • Ken

    exclusive 75/25 club

    How many members? And how fast is membership growing?

    • Lee Rudolph

      Coming to this comment fresh off the discussion elsethread of the various Republican candidates’ character classes, I read “exclusive 75/25 club” as some kind of specifications for an enchanted blunt instrument.

  • Amanda in the South Bay

    Next time I go to a restaurant or coffee shop or bar in Santa Clara County, I’ll be left wondering if that person isn’t a middle of the road graduate from SCU law. Or see someone on a VTA bus at some odd time of the day/week.

    • Pseudonym

      I wonder how many of them end up in those six-week learn-to-code academies.

      • NewishLawyer

        I know one guy from law school who attended community college for a bit in order to learn coding. Turns out that wasn’t his academic strong suit. Luckily he eventually found a position as an associate that paid pretty well.

        Coding is now the big thing for liberal arts grads. However, I suspect that the next tech bubble is going to go bust in a year or two. A lot of tech firms like Dropbox are having their valuations lowered. We will see what happens then.

        • PaulB

          Firms like Dropbox are not hiring people from twelve week learn to code programs. They want people with computer science degrees, especially from top colleges. At least the learn to code schools take far less money and time in their scam than do law schools.

          • Amanda in the South Bay

            Community colleges are a pretty good deal. There are worse things to be doing with a SCU law degree in the Bay Area.

          • NonyNony

            Firms like Dropbox are not hiring people from twelve week learn to code programs.

            No, they’re not.

            But if there’s a bubble, then when it pops the really high quality programmers lose their jobs and often end up moving down the chain, allowing other non-tech companies who aren’t part of the bubble to compete for those employees.

            i.e. a database expert at Dropbox would probably never think of taking a job with Allstate insurance working the financial database grind. But if the tech bubble bursts suddenly the available options have disappeared and that Allstate job starts looking better (because at least its a job). That pushes the guy who would have gotten the Allstate job down the ladder to some smaller player eventually pushing the guys from the 6 week coding academies into the unemployment line.

            IOW – the guys with a Masters from Berkley working for Dropbox won’t really ever have to worry much about eventually finding decent jobs if Dropbox disappears (though it might no longer be the jobs they particularly want), but the guys with the 6 week coding academy certificates are going to be scrounging if Dropbox disappears even though they have no shot of ever having a job at Dropbox.

            • nocutename

              I feel like you just wrote a long post that agrees with PaulB.

        • JL

          Coding is now the big thing for liberal arts grads.

          And yet, none of the tech companies I’m familiar with are filling up their developer positions with humanities majors from liberal arts colleges, not unless the humanities majors have a terrific GitHub portfolio and it’s the sort of company that cares more about your GitHub than your resume. Non-computer-science STEM majors who went to prestigious schools and have some experience coding have a decent shot.

          • NonyNony


            The bulk of software developers are still being employed in the non-sexy arenas of financial databases and inventory management databases (i.e. banks, insurance, manufacturing and shipping and the consulting firms who sell products to these areas).

            Humanities majors learning to code are more likely to find a job in the finance sector than the tech sector. At least as long as the tech bubble continues to exist.

  • Pseudonym

    The last time fewer men enrolled in law school than this fall was probably 1962.

    Ok… When was the last time fewer white people enrolled in law school?

    • Gregor Sansa

      Fewer than ever lawyers-to-be are Dicks!

  • JCougar

    Still too many. It would take years at levels even reduced from this one to mop up all the excess labor in the new-grad JD market.

    There’s still people milling around who can’t even get a document review job at $19/hour because they don’t have the right connections. Lots of them.

    There’s only about 20,000 or so new attorney jobs each year, and well over half of those pay so little that you’ll never be able to make any more than an interest payment on your school loans.

    It’s impossible to quantify how bad an economic decision it is to attend law school–even now. It will ruin your life.

    The only way these current numbers work out is if bar passage rates dip so low that something like 40% of JD students either drop out before they graduate or never pass the bar. Which is a goal that law schools are currently making attainable given their open admissions policies.

    • NewishLawyer

      This raises the question of what is a good bet? I despair of a world where STEM and business majors are the only good ones. But a lot of friends from law school are doing non-law things. They are working in admin and grant writing, market research, some business/banking, etc.

      Some like their lives. Others are making piece with it. I wonder how many of them would have ended up in the same place if they did not apply to law school. That is unknowable though.

      • Morse Code for J

        The lesson of law schools and increasingly most other programs of higher education is that you can’t take on any amount of debt demanded by a school, study anything simply because it interests you to discuss it, and trust that you will end up in a good place both financially and professionally just because you went to school like a good little middle-class striver.

        • CSI

          Also another lesson is that you can’t trust institutions of higher learning. Even the respected big name ones. They are out to make money above all else, and whenever they are promoting their offerings whatever they say is likely bullshit. Ever since I’ve been reading scamblogs, whenever I hear colleges and universities peddling their wares on the radio I often wind up laughing to myself.

  • yupyup

    I really despise Steve Diamond.

    A 69% increase in the size of the first year class is really remarkable. The dilution of quality of student goes a long way in explaining it, however.

  • Colin Day

    This year’s Scamblog Sinverguenza Award

    Pedant point: It should be Sinvergüenza.

    • Gregor Sansa

      No seas güey.

  • LawDdaw

    You are all terribly naïve if you think there will be a meaningful or material reduction in the number of law schools.

    The ABA has been captured by the 4th tier administrators. THE NCBE will be brought to its knees and the ABA will relax its standards. GUARANTEED.

    The ONLY way this scam ends will be if the feds condition loans to measurable, and positive, outcomes. And that takes a political will that is utterly absent in the USA.

    Get out the lube and blog away.

    • twbb

      The NCBEX hasn’t backed down yet and the state bars can step in if they do.

    • Webstir

      You sir, are an apologist for stupidity. For Christ sake, if a person wants to be a lawyer they better have common sense enough to sniff out a scam. The ONLY way this scam ends is when the applicant’s expectations are tempered by reality. BigLaw is going down. Technology has obviated the need to pay a bunch of associates to hang around all day combing through books and writing briefs. One lawyer can get as much work done using Westlaw as 10 could 20 years ago. Yes, there were too many lawyers as a consequence. Yes, there ARE too many law schools as a consequence. But as the market gets tighter, and the fewer positions are awarded to the better lawyers, people will see that a 4th tier private school isn’t going to get them what they naively expect. In time, the market will weed out the lower tier law schools because of lack of demand. I’m not a capitalist proselyte — but in this case the market will eventually sort it out.

      If a person has some brains, is willing to work hard, and doesn’t mind interpersonal conflict, then now is a great time to become a lawyer. But they must be aware of the trade off between how much they are willing to pay for school, and what they can expect to earn. Unless you’re always the smartest person in the room, I don’t think the top tier law schools are worth the money because the market for the big paying jobs don’t pencil out. Any 2nd tier school is more than enough. They really don’t teach you much anyway outside of understanding that EVERYTHING depends.

      • Srsly Dad Y

        Second prize is a set of steak knives.

  • PaulB

    The most interesting data point I saw was that one of the T-14 had a 75th percentile LSAT equal to its 25th percentile from 5 years ago. To protect the guilty I won’t mention which Jesuit school in DC it was.

    • nocutename

      Nice of you to be so discrete.

  • Webstir

    I love it. Boomers retiring, and everyone spooked. The market couldn’t be better after having just landed a job as a small town trial lawyer right out of law school. Gimme a good 4-5 years and I’ll be established just about the time the baby boomer founder of the firm retires. Why all the doom and gloom? The market was due for a purge. The market got a purge. Fortunately, the biggest purge has happened to all the BigLaw wannabe’s who care more about making money instead of helping clients. Plenty of good jobs are still out there, and will continue to be out there for non-specialist lawyers that can’t be replaced by Westlaw. This whole thing is tempest in a tea-pot.

    • LawDdaw

      Jeez, you’re right. From your small town perch, you’ve grasped the truth for all of us, and better still, you’re sharing it.

      Lucky for us, I guess.

      Paul, you’ve got it all wrong. Brian Tamanaha too. And countless others like McEntee. Webstir’s figured it out.

    • nocutename

      Wow, I’m guessing there must be tens of thousands of these small town trial lawyer jobs at firms where the founder is set to retire. Better sign up for the LSAT while the window of opportunity is still open.

      And as for the whole market purge thing, those unemployed lawyers with 6 digit debt will be fine in the end. Right? I mean, of course they will, otherwise you might sound like a complete monster.

      • Webstir

        Investing in an education is one of the biggest risks a person can take. Some choose wisely, some don’t. Does that make me a monster? Or shrewd?

        I chose to attend the University of Idaho Law School, consistently ranked as one of the “best value” law schools: http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cypress/nationaljurist-bts2015/#/28

        I wasn’t motivated by money or esteem. I was realistic. And that is where the purge is occurring — among those with unrealistic expectations of what lawyers really do and how much they earn doing it, and of the opportunities available for them. If you not prepared for the realities of today’s market for lawyer’s going in, then yeah, you might get burned.

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