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DC comics, law school edition

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This WAPO story notes that applications to law school have declined sharply for the third straight year (they’re going to total about 58,500 in this cycle, down from a high of 102,000 nine years ago).

It features some typical babble from an admissions dean at GULC:

“In the boom times three to eight years ago, when applications were much higher, I think it got glutted,” Cornblatt said. “I think this is the right-sizing. There’s this adjustment being made.”

Cornblatt said growing concerns about the legal job market and law school debt are driving away less-serious potential applicants who a few years ago might have been eager to enter law school to weather the recession.

“There’s been so much noise about the legal job market and how tough it is, whether it’s worth the tuition and borrowing all that money,” he said. “That group of people who weren’t as committed just aren’t applying now . . .

(1) The highest percentage of law grads who got full-time long-term jobs requiring bar admission within nine months of graduation since NALP started recording this stat 12 years ago was 71% in 2007. So three out of ten grads weren’t getting jobs as lawyers at the height of the “boom” (the number for the class of 2012 was 56.4%, but this declines to barely over 50% if you exclude solos and law school funded positions.)

(2) Schools haven’t cut enrollments to nearly the extent that applications have declined. “Right-sizing” the entering first year class would require cutting it from last fall’s 44,500 to between 15,000 to 25,000 1Ls, depending on how much one wants to take into account the tremendous amount of oversupply already in the system (25,000 would represent about 10% more than the annual number of new jobs for lawyers).

(3) The claim about less serious applicants being deterred is based on no data. What we do know is that the decline in applicants has been sharper among those with higher LSAT scores, which would seem to suggest the opposite.

(4) I was told yesterday by a law professor who used to be on the faculty of one of the schools in question that GULC and GW are both offering transfer spots to everyone in the top 20% of last year’s American class, at whatever tuition they were paying at American (American is infamous for giving out very little in the way of tuition discounts, so this strategy makes sense for the higher ranked schools, especially given American’s horrible employment stats. The WAPO story doesn’t note that GULC and GW both inflate their graduating classes with enormous numbers of transfers — sometimes more than 100 at each school. Transfer LSAT and GPA scores aren’t reported to the ABA so admitting transfers is a great way to balance your budget without endangering the reported entry stats for your students).

(5) A 29 year old Ivy League STEM grad wanted to talk yesterday about whether he should enroll in law school this fall. This guy claims to have read everything I’ve written on the subject.

His situation:

Works in DC

Admitted to GW and American at close to sticker. Half tuition scholarship at Catholic.

Thinks he wants to do securities law, either in private practice or on the government regulatory side.

Does financial analysis for a big bank. Is becoming increasingly bored and has questions about the long-term stability of his position.

Current salary: $112K

Ummm . . .

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