March 20, 2012
The Law School Admission Council has announced that the number of law school entrance tests taken this year dropped by more than 16 percent, making it the lowest number in over a decade.
According to the LSAC, a total of 129,925 Law School Admission Tests were administered in 2011-12. Last year, that number was 155,050, and the year before, it was 171,514. In the last two years, the number of LSAT-takers has dropped almost 25 percent.
The decline is being seen as an indication that students are increasingly questioning the assumption that a law degree will guarantee a lucrative career. This is partly because in recent months, media and blogs have reported on many new unemployed lawyers who are saddled with enormous student loan debt. Moreover, class-action lawsuits have been filed against over a dozen law schools, claiming that students were misled by overinflated employment figures.
"For a long time there has been this culturally embedded perception that if you go to law school, it will be worth the money," explained Kyle McEntee of the legal education policy organization Law School Transparency, who was quoted in The New York Times. "The idea that law school is an easy ticket to financial security is finally breaking down."
Some pointed out that the reduced number of LSAT-takers is bad news for law schools. "A smaller pool of applicants means fewer test-takers with 165+ and 170+ scores to help them boost their rankings," noted Steve Schwartz, an LSAT tutor, on his blog. "Law schools have become accustomed to the flood of tuition dollars. Some have even been expanding their facilities. They'll be looking to fill those seats, and they may have to take a hit to their LSAT medians in order to do so."
Andrew Morriss, of the University of Alabama School of Law, agreed. "What I'd anticipate is that you'll see the biggest falloff in applications in the bottom end of the law school food chain," he told the Times. "Those schools are going to have significant difficulty because they are dependent on tuition to fund themselves and they'll either have to cut class size to maintain standards, or accept students with lower credentials."
However, the news is good for law school hopefuls: While the nation's top law schools will always be competitive, having less applicants to the lower-tier law schools could make it easier for those with lower LSAT scores to gain admission.
Compiled by Yaffa Klugerman
"Fewest LSATs Administered in Over 10 Years," lsatblog.blogspot.com, March 19, 2012, Steve Schwartz
"For Second Year, a Sharp Drop in Law School Entrance Tests," nytimes.com, March 19, 2012, David Segal
"LSATs Administered," lsac.org, March 2012