March 18, 2011
Applications Down: Law Students Do Understand Economics
Law students may not know economics, but they certainly act economically. The Wall Street Journal reports that law school applications are down 11.5% from last year. This should come as a surprise to no one, given the weak job market for lawyers and the long-term trends.
If this enrollment trend persists, how will it affect law schools? Harvard and Yale aren’t going anywhere, even though their high cost and the decline of big law make private Top Ten law schools a bad deal for many of their students. The cheaper state schools with good regional reputations are probably safe. But what happens to the bottom tier? (I mean the bottom tier in as measured by market demand, which may or may not be the same as the bottom tier in U.S. News.)
Some of those bottom-tier schools are expensive and fill at least part of their classes with students who can’t get into other schools. A persistent drop in enrollment is going to put a lot of pressure on them. If they’re state-supported, and particularly if they’re not the only public school in the state, will the state continue to subsidize them? If they’re private, will the tuition they bring in be sufficient?
Many schools will be forced to dip even lower into the applicant pool, which will result in lower bar passage rates and the attendant accreditation issues. If the market doesn’t kill them, the American Bar Association might.
March 18, 2011 | Permalink