The Talent

July 12, 2010 2:28 PM

Law School Applications Rise Despite Shrinking Job Market

Posted by Claire Zillman

You'd think a shrinking legal job market in the U.S. would discourage people from applying to law school. But, according to The National Law Journal, a sibling publication, quite the opposite is happening. Law school applications increased 7 percent nationwide and the number of applicants moved up 3 percent for this fall's incoming classes.

At some schools, the applicant pool has grown by 30 percent or more--the University of Alabama School of Law saw a 70 percent jump, the University of Maine School of Law's applicant numbers rose 65 percent, and Cornell Law School's increased by 50 percent.

The NLJ also presents data that throws the application figures in stark relief--the number of lawyers working at large U.S. law firms declined 4 percent last year, according to the NLJ's survey of the nation's 250 largest law firms; and, according to employment reports from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the legal industry cut 22,000 jobs in 2009.

So, the NLJ asks, what are these applicants thinking?

"I'm obviously about to take on a lot of debt. I'm hoping by the time I get out of law school the job climate will be better," said 21-year-old Arline Laurer, who'll enroll at University of Toledo College of Law next month.

Laurer's cautiously optimistic attitude is consistent with those of other soon-to-be law students who shared their plans with the NLJ. Most students reported having some knowledge of the changing legal market but decided to go forward with their law school plans because they've always wanted to be a lawyer or believe a J.D. will broaden their career options.

The NLJ reports that the surge in law school applications is consistent with the recession. Each year between 2004 and 2008, the number of people applying to ABA-accredited law schools held steady or declined, yet last year, as the economy soured, the incoming class saw a 5 percent spike in applications.

"It's absolutely consistent with every recession we've seen with more people looking to graduate programs and into law school," Jim Leipold, executive director of NALP, told the NLJ. "Historically, it's not been a bad strategy. I do think for the immediate future, there are going to be fewer entry-level jobs at law firms."

Click here to read the full story from the NLJ story, as well as profiles of several prospective law students.

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Current applicants are looking at the long-term job outlook, which includes baby-boomers retiring.

I recently posted articles on really bad reasons and really good reasons to attend law school. Would be of interest to potential applicants.

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