Fewer students are applying to law school.
This past December, a total of 30,226 individuals sat for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), a standardized exam necessary for acceptance to U.S. law schools. In December 2009, this figure hit 50,444, meaning that in only three years, the number of students taking the LSAT during the December session fell by 40%.
Over the past few years, this trend has remained fairly consistent, with the total number of LSATs administered falling by 9.6% in 2010-2011 and 16.2% in 2011-2012.
The Reasons Behind the Numbers
The New York Times reports that one of the greatest factors behind declining LSAT figures is the wavering job market for lawyers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of positions for lawyers is expected to increase by about 10% through 2020, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. However, the BLS warns that the demand for lawyers will be somewhat constrained because businesses increasingly turn to accounting firms and paralegals to complete the tasks once given to lawyers.
On top of diminishing job prospects, the Times reports that many prospective law school students are wary of the amount of money they will need to spend to earn their legal degree.
"Students are doing the math," Michelle J. Anderson, dean of the City University of New York School of Law, told the Times. "Most law schools are too expensive, the debt coming out is too high and the prospect of attaining a six-figure-income job is limited."
Law Schools Consider the Future of the Industry
As fewer students take the LSAT in hopes of earning a legal degree, law schools across the nation are being forced to consider what they need to do to reverse this trend.
A November 2012 survey by Kaplan Test Prep shows that 68% of law schools have revamped their curricula to better prepare students to pass the bar exam and enter the workforce. Additionally, 51% of law schools have reduced the size of their entering class, citing the contraction of the job market in the legal industry as their primary reason for doing do.
"With the supply of new lawyers outpacing the available number of positions for new lawyers, this is the most critical time for legal education in decades," said Jeff Thomas, director of pre-law programs for Kaplan Test Prep. "Our survey shows that law schools are taking much-needed action to better prepare new lawyers for the changing job landscape, while at the same time accepting fewer students, as they know jobs will not be easy to come by."