Law school applications down 37 percent since 2010; first-year class could be smallest in 40 years

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Those hoping that a multiyear trend of declining law school applications and admissions would come to an end this year are confronting disappointing statistics.

Applications for the class that begins law school this fall are down 8 percent following double-digit declines the two previous years, according to statistics compiled by the Law School Admission Council. That adds up to a total drop in applications of 37 percent since 2010, and likely means an entering class of around 38,000, a University of North Carolina law professor tells the National Law Journal (sub. req.).

If law professor Alfred Brophy is right, that would be the smallest group to enter American Bar Association-accredited law schools since 1974, the article says. In 2010, a total of 52,488 individuals began their first year of law school.

Brophy called the numbers “a real morale buster,” and said it’s unclear when the enrollment decline will stop. “Law school just isn’t the path into the middle class that it once was,” he told the legal publication.

However, Northwestern University’s law school dean said the hope that the number of law school applications would remain the same or go up this year was based on “wishful thinking.”

“Frankly, there was never a very good theory as to why we would see a correction this year, nor did the data point in that direction,” dean Daniel Rodriguez told the NLJ. He serves as president of the Association of American Law Schools.

Hat tip: Wall Street Journal Law Blog (sub. req.).

Related coverage: “Law schools react to smallest incoming classes since 1970s; top applicants buck the trend” “Is law school like an undervalued stock? Job hunt could be ‘relative cinch’ for class of 2016” “High applications to new law school show ‘pent-up demand,’ law dean says; tuition is $14K”

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