Law School Applicant Bubble:
It looks like the law school applicant bubble of the last five years has finally burst, and the number of applicants is now dropping. Thanks to the Basher for the link.
PhillyBooster (mail):
There's no indication in these articles of what a decrease in applications "means" further down the food chain. Does fewer applicants mean smaller law school classes? Does it mean classes with less qualified applicants? Does it mean fewer attorneys taking the bar in three/four years? Does it mean just as many taking the bar but fewer passing?

Or maybe, the missing applicants are from the least qualified students, who would have been rejected anyway, and it won't make one whit of difference outside the admissions office.

Any of these are possible, none are intuitively obvious, and I would think a report on this would delve a little more into that.
2.9.2006 10:16am
JLR (mail):
I read that NYT article this morning. Among other interesting facts and quotes (including one from David E. Kelley), the article notes how from 2004 to 2005, Yale Law School's applicant pool essentially remained unchanged, as compared to NYU, Columbia, Stanford and Harvard. This might very well correlate with US News continually ranking Yale Law as #1.
2.9.2006 10:17am
SK (mail):
A similar story was published in TimesNorth, d/b/a the Boston Globe:

Law School Apps Down

The lower-tier schools in town, Suffolk and Northeastern, report a decline in applicants, though they are quick to say that the decline is primarily among lower-qualified (i.e. lower LSATs) candidates.
2.9.2006 10:22am
Jared K.:
I don't know if this means I should feel bad about the acceptance I've already gotten or good about the applications I still have outstanding.
2.9.2006 11:21am
Pete Freans (mail):
Good...more jobs &clients for me.
2.9.2006 12:30pm
Gabriel Malor (mail):
Heh. I'm right with Jared K. Is this good or is this bad?
2.9.2006 12:46pm
Pondy Lover:
Fewer lawyers is always good.
2.9.2006 12:50pm
John Jenkins (mail):
Fewer applicants doesn't mean fewer lawyers.
2.9.2006 1:05pm
JLR (mail):
Mr. Jenkins is right -- based on the NYT article it isn't clear if the "missing applicants," so to speak, fell into a group of applicants who would either (a) get into no ABA-accredited law schools at all; or (b) not use their JD diplomas to actually practice law.

However, what this news does mean is that, for law schools receiving fewer applications but continuing to accept the same absolute number of people, the acceptance rate is going to go up (either in insignificant or significant amounts).
2.9.2006 1:12pm
Houston Lawyer:
I remember that law schools used to put out data indicating an acceptance rate based upon GPAs and LSAT scores. It was in a gid format that was quite useful. This data would be easy for law schools to generate and would be quite useful for potential applicants. The University of Texas School of Law used to have a numerical cut-off based upon adding a multiple of your GPA to your LSAT score. Everyone over a certain point was admitted, and everyone below was subject to further scrutiny. I have no idea whether this type of information remains available or whether UT still follows this policy.

The number of people applying to law school has no bearing on the number admitted. Back when the market for lawyers was bad, UT floated the idea of reducing the number of students accepted to each class. When told sure, but lets reduce your funding accordingly, they quickly dropped that idea.
2.9.2006 1:29pm
Dustin (mail):

fewer applicants would almost certainly mean fewer LSAT takers which would mean the test is possibly harder to take (since your score is a ranking). For some percentiles this won't be true, but in the 150's to the higher 160's I'm pretty sure it will be harder to stand out it the weaker students (not taking the test) are not in the process anymore.

Anyhow, the drop is significant at some schools, it is more significant at UCLA, Volokh's school than any other with more than a 10 percent decline (similar at UT).

That the large very good law schools are seeing the greatest decline tells me that perhaps the drop is actually not of weak or strong students but of most students. We won't know for sure until the admission season is over, but I think law school is now easier to get into (or candidates are less qualified if you like, I'm pretty sure they will still be highly qualified).
2.9.2006 2:51pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
Houston Lawyer -

UT, at least at one point, deviated significantly from that policy, when they started to assign "diversity points." They were told by the court of appeals that they couldn't do that, when Hopwood came along. Most likely they retained the de facto quotas however, so I doubt their admission policy is how you remember it.
2.9.2006 2:58pm
Anon E Moose:
The timing is interesting. Salaries at BIGLAW firms have been stagnant since the internet boom drove law firms to pay more to retain talent (ca. 2000), setting the benchmark at $125k for first years. Recent moves by certain firms to raise the bar by $10k have led one NY firm to counter with a $20k increase, and several to follow the latest move (events are still developing). Did the law firms know about declining applications, and sense a need to sweeten the incentive? These leading salary firms recuit from the top of the best law schools, which suggests that any decrease in applicant quality was being felt up the food chain, not just at the bottom.
2.9.2006 3:02pm
Magnus (mail):
My understanding is the applicant pool is based on the size of the graduating college group and the availability and quality of alternatives (e.g., jobs). When the economy drops, applications grow, and when the economy recovers, they drop. If the economy is recovering, then applicants from all over the spectrum should be facing better opportunities, and so you'd expect to see reductions in both the number of good and the number of bad applicants, to use normative terminology.

This could explain why, during this recent period of slow job growth, many law schools saw increasing LSAT averages for their enrolled students.
2.9.2006 3:05pm
Pondy Lover:
John Jenkins,

Of course, you're right. Fewer applicants does not entail fewer lawyers. Indeed it's provable that 100% of the applicant drop would NEVER have become lawyers. QED.
2.9.2006 4:01pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
I have a theory that this will be bad for schools in big cities, which I think have benefited most from the application boom. As it becomes more and more competitive to get into the very top schools, I think many of the real ambitious go-getter types who aren't able to get into those schools still want to be in big east/westcoast cities. This would push down the more rural schools in the rankings, like Iowa or Minnesota or Texas, because their applicant pools wouldn't get as much of the top-ten or top-twenty spillover.

So basically, I think GW is going to go down in the rankings now, and schools like UT and Iowa will go back up.
2.9.2006 4:59pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
I don't buy this analogy. I've never heard of an American wanting to ban American flag burning in other countries, or to ban images of flag burning, or anything like that. You as might as well make an analogy to people who want to go around naked as a political statement.
2.9.2006 6:53pm
After reading the post and comments on this subject I went to and they had an article with references to applications being up at Notre Dame, Valpo, and Cooley.

Here is the link to the story
2.9.2006 7:25pm
John Jenkins (mail):
My point was that fewer applications does not necessarily mean smaller first-year classes. It could just mean less selectivity. Law schools need the money from students, after all. Even with a drop in overall applications, enrollment could increase (unless applications dropped before prior enrollment, which no one is alleging).
2.9.2006 8:58pm