ABA Journal


Law Schools

Law school enrollment down 11 percent this year over last year, 24 percent over 3 years, data shows

Dec 17, 2013, 02:30 pm CST


Well, good. We have been turning out a ridiculous number of attorneys for far too long.

By EsqinAustin on 2013 12 17, 2:40 pm CST

As measured by lsats, the dumb kids are still flocking to law school, and are benefitting from what is really best understood to be open admissions. "You can fog a mirror?! Come'on in!"

It will be interesting to see if state bars lower pass rates to accommodate the below-the-median lsat crowd. Safe bet they will.

By Guest on 2013 12 17, 5:06 pm CST

In an effort to reduce the cost of obtaining a JD, some law schools are reducing the amount of time that it takes to obtain a JD from 3 years to 2 years. The side effect of this is to reverse the downward trend of lower law student enrollment, and allow more law students to graduate into the work force. Hopefully, there will be law jobs for all of those future graduates.

By EsqofNY on 2013 12 17, 6:08 pm CST

Sadly, declining numbers will not likely help those of us who already had our lives stolen by the profession. I'm sorry to my children, if I can ever afford to have any. I am also sorry to my mother, for I once had a dream of purchasing you a new HVAC system for your home so you would have heat. I know you cry because it gets so cold at your home in the evening. I wish I could help you and I'm sorry I was in the law review office the last year dad was alive. Maybe if I had been able to come home instead of applying to hundreds of jobs my third year of law school I would have realized he was not himself and deathly ill. G-d forgive me for failing my family and going to law school.

By Contract Attorney on 2013 12 17, 9:55 pm CST

God forgive all the self-obsessed mooncalves who lost track of their obligations to family and the world around them. Please, Hell, hold a special place for every self-confessed bastard who gave up everything dear in the quest for the golden law school Wonka ticket. They have shown themselves and the world what they are.

Fortunately, the market is correcting. Those who have stupidly sacrificed family, friends, solvency, and all social connections to be unemployed, debt-ridden fools have left their bleaching economic skulls along the trail as a warning to those coming after them.

By B. McLeod on 2013 12 20, 9:00 am CST

I'll take it. Any news reflecting even an ever-so-slight decline in the amount lawyers being churned out into these already saturated markets is good news. The plain fact is that there are too many attorneys; and, somehow, too few good attorneys.
The ABA and state licensing boards need to do some serious pruning and recalibrating. It is shameful that schools are looking to decrease the amount of time and effort required to be an attorney. Two years to a JD, seriously? Its no wonder the profession has become the brunt of so many jokes. Law school ought to be incredibly difficult to get into, be much more difficult to get through, and last at least four years.

By TennesseeEsq on 2013 12 20, 1:35 pm CST

Good news, but little consolation for the 25,000 lawyers/year from 2010-2013 left out of the legal field.

By Steve on 2013 12 20, 3:03 pm CST

Sorry to you newbie/neophytes staring at a saturated horror market but this is good news for us been out 10-15 years types now entering the prime years of our legal careers and at the top of the client demand demographic. Timing as they say is everything. If its any consolation, I will remain steadfast in my insistence that my now young children, when the time comes, choose anything other than law school. Tough decisions too choosing between getting sucked into Big Law drudgery, hanging a shingle or find some middling job that doesn't make ends meet. Good Grief. The ABA is so good at making the profession look so miserable.

By EJF on 2013 12 20, 3:07 pm CST

Some interesting stats in the article. 39,675 students enrolling this year. BLS projects a need for 22,000 new lawyers / year through 2020. Enrollments would need to decline 80% for all first year students to get a job as a lawyer. Are there really that many new students who don't intend to practice, who will seek a job where "JD is preferred", or don't intend to work at all?

Here's another one: there were the same # of law students in 1975. What surprises me about that figure is how much smaller and less complex our economy was in 1975, leaving me to wonder how 39,000 new JDs were able to launch a legal career in 1975.

I think one thing has been constant. Whatever you choose as a career, know the path, understand the cost to get there and accept that bigger goals will require bigger risk and sacrifice. Oh, and pay off your credit card balance every month.

By Dhevyd on 2013 12 20, 3:59 pm CST

The comparison with 1975 may be misleading. From what I have heard, the graduation rate was much lower in the '70s than it is today. If that is true, they were still producing fewer lawyers than we are today.

I am happy fewer people are entering the profession - hopefully more people will be joining for the right reasons (whatever you think those are).

By InHouse on 2013 12 20, 5:02 pm CST

There is room for all the lawyers who are graduating if they could be funded to provide representation in civil cases for poor litigants who have real disputes and for public defenders offices to provide real representation in the vast majority of cases these lawyers handle. Do not expect any of this to happen in the new America. What of mothers with kids and non-paying dads and no $ to hire real representation? Yes, there are some states that provide them with adequate representation but some who do not. As for small claims court, in some states lawyers are barred from representing parties but in others, one side, the one with $ can hire lawyers and the indigent cannot. So much for the theory of the adversary system.

By Judge Chuck Edelstein (Ret.) on 2013 12 20, 8:56 pm CST

This is a good thing, given the changes that are underway in the legal industry. I think we can look forward to even more offshoring, automation, alternative service delivery models and the like. This country graduates more JDs than are required.

Look on the bright side, though. At least it is tailing off. Canada is building more law schools, completely oblivious to the employment trends.

By Jim on 2013 12 20, 9:01 pm CST

The American legal profession is in the toilet, thanks to the useless ABA and the criminal baby-boomer generation of law school deans who lined own pockets with the non-dischargeable debt the next generation. I'm just grateful that I got a masters degree in something marketable, and I am now employed in a palatable different profession.

What a horrible, criminal scam. The fact that the ABA is not vigorously advocating for fewer law students, fewer law schools, and the allowance of student loan debt to be discharged in bankruptcy -- like any other kind US of debt -- shows just how completely unaccountable this so-called professional organization is to its own members. The ABA is beyond useless -- it is culpable. RICO charges should be filed against the ABA and the entire legal academy.

By Banksy on 2013 12 21, 2:03 am CST

Of course law schools are lowering their standards now ---

Only an idiot would apply!

By Samo on 2013 12 21, 2:11 am CST

If I'd been able to think as logically before attending law school as I was able to do after attending law school, I would never have attended law school.

By Space Invader on 2013 12 21, 2:21 am CST

Drops means that they can't make money to represent people in 'pay check to pay check' nation. Thanks to existing pros managing to destroy justice and; consequently, .... the economy's ability to support professionals.
Welcome to the land of inequality and 'order' justified lawyers: soon only 24 lawyers will be needed to present U.S. oligarchy , the rest will be public defenders or gangs type courts.

By Whateve on 2013 12 21, 6:32 pm CST

But, my 23 colleagues and I will keep you all in our thoughts and prayers.

Happy Holidays!

By B. McLeod on 2013 12 21, 6:39 pm CST

40k lawyers is close to 22k lawyer jobs? Yeah, unless you're in the jobless HALF.

Only 89% to go to correcting the 200k-300k glut.

By Associate on 2013 12 22, 12:42 am CST

@11 "What of mothers with kids and non-paying dads and no $ to hire real representation?"

And what of fathers with kids and non-paying moms and no $ to hire real representation?

Census figures show that only 57 percent of moms required to pay child support actually do so - compared to 68 percent of dads who pay up.

While 7 percent of custodial moms work more than 44 hours a week, 24.5 percent of single custodial dads work more than 44 hours. And only about half as many custodial dads get government help than moms.

Dads are often discouraged from pursuing custody battles by attorneys and often don’t like to make waves in the system, as long as they get to regularly see their child or get complete custody.

You are correct. We definitely need more attorneys to provide real representation to those who need it the most. But as you stated in your post, many don't expect that to happen in the new America.

By Plentypie on 2013 12 22, 4:23 pm CST

B. McLeod, I am uncertain who you are, but I don't find your replies humorous or helpful. You make light of a post by someone who is not only himself or herself suffering, but also apparently has suffered great loss in his or her family. I feel sorry for you B. McLeod. What type of person would wish another fellow man or woman eternal damnation?

By Who is B. McLeod? on 2013 12 22, 4:57 pm CST

Well, that is alright. I grant you permission to not find my replies humorous or helpful. I also grant myself permission to have no sympathy for crybabies who have ruined their own lives through brainless avarice. And, as for who I am, I thought it well established that I am


By B. McLeod on 2013 12 22, 10:23 pm CST

I, having just graduated law school and passed the Bar, appreciate your levity, B. McLeod. Contract Attorney's post, while I suppose somewhat disheartening, screams of more than just job problems. It's a self-loathing pity party post, which I find pathetic.

I've managed to land a good job, where purchasing my mother an HVAC system would be no problem. Even top-end systems run only $5k. Go on a recycling collection campaign for a year or two and you should have enough to purchase your mother a heating system. Or just get her a good space-heater, which will run you less than $75.

By Hilli on 2013 12 26, 6:06 pm CST

Yesterday, my family celebrated Christmas mass and we learned about the difficulties faced by those less fortunate than us during the holidays. So after reading these posts, I am left to simply wish you the happiest of holidays, B. McLeod and Hilli! But please never have children and certainly never work in any field with combat veterans, divorcees or others suffering from PTSD or other mental ailments.

By Perplexed on 2013 12 26, 6:49 pm CST

I do very well with combat veterans. In fact, there was quite a nice chat session over the Yorkshire pudding yesterday with the three branches of the service represented by my family members gathered around the table for Christmas dinner. Oddly enough, nobody was wailing about their HVAC or their little dog, Checkers, or any sob story about how they were such miserable excuses for human beings that they ignored a dying parent to mail out some resumes from a law review office. I don't really think that whole putting-your-soul-up-for-sale-gift-wrapped thing is due to "PTSD" or any other recognized mental illness. Anyone who does it is just a complete hypocrite to try to rationalize it as anything being "stolen by the profession." The kind of person who is willing to sell their last scrap of humanity like that for some mere glimmer of a hope at any law firm job just deserves to be miserable.

By B. McLeod on 2013 12 27, 1:41 am CST

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