Nation’s law schools see overall decrease in student applications

Shamoyita DasGupta

The number of students applying to law schools around the nation has decreased significantly since last year, according to data from the Law School Admissions Council.

Since last year, the number of applicants has dipped 11.5 percent, although the figure may change since only about 90 percent of total anticipated applicants have already applied. For the fall 2010 semester, 87,500 students applied to attend law school, according to the Law School Admissions Council website.

Although the number of UT School of Law applicants remains uncertain until the fall, there are significantly fewer applicants so far than the 5,815 students who applied for fall 2010, said assistant dean Monica Ingram. The law school cannot release the number of applicants so far, she said.

Typically, the numbers of applicants rises and falls over several years, but this year the number is the lowest it has been in a decade, said Wendy Margolis, a spokeswoman for the Law School Admissions Council.

Following the recession that officially began in December 2007, the number of applicants increased significantly. The poor job market at the time probably helped to contribute to the cycle that job markets generally experience called the Cobweb Cycle, said economics professor
Daniel Hamermesh.

“They boom and bust, so [the decrease] isn’t surprising,” he said.

Law schools tend to flood the job market when it does well, causing a decrease in wages. As a result, fewer students apply and become somewhat of a scarcity when they graduate, causing wages to rise. This cycle continues every few years, Hamermesh said.

The status of the job market tends to create different factors for students who may be considering law school or other graduate school.

In many cases, students choose to attend law school if they do not feel ready to enter the workforce. For these students, particularly when the economy improves again, they are more likely to consider other options, Ingram said.

Now that students have more job options to consider, fewer are applying to law school, she said.
“I think students who were not as serious about law but who were looking at it as a safe haven for three years are now looking at other options,” Ingram said. “Individuals who are not as committed to the profession are taking a second look, and I think that’s important.”

The decreasing percentage of law school applicants may actually help those who plan to attend law school next year, said advertising senior Brian Archabal, who plans to attend law school.

“Because less people have applied this year, schools will dip into their waitlists deeper than they have in the past,” he said. “It definitely gave me some hope.”