Law school class size decreasing, says survey

More than 200,000 fewer students applied for law school in 2013 than did just three years ago

In August 2013, a University of North Carolina Law School paper estimated that the legal job market would balance out, not because of increased jobs, but because the supply of law school graduates would decrease.  According to a recent Kaplan Test Prep Survey, the decrease in supply is happening sooner than previously thought.

The survey, released on Oct. 1, 54 percent of law school admissions officers said they have decreased the size of their incoming classes for 2013-2014. This makes two years in a row with falling class sizes, as 51 percent reported smaller classes for 2012-2013. The trend does not seem to be pointing upward either, as 25 percent say they already plan to cut class sizes for 2014-2015 as well.

Since law schools saw a combined 602,300 applicants in 2010, the pool from which law schools are selecting their applicants has dropped considerably. Only 385,400 students applied to law schools in 2013, according to Kaplan, the lowest level of applicants in decades.

But this is just one of the major changes that Kaplan reports. The survey also says that law schools are undergoing a radical change in how they prepare future lawyers for the legal realm. 71 percent of the law schools surveyed say they are introducing more clinical courses and practical training into their curricula to make their students more “practice ready.” In addition, 78 percent of admissions officers agree that “the U.S. legal education system needs to undergo significant changes to better prepare future attorneys for the changing employment landscape and legal profession.”

Some other key findings from the Kaplan survey:

  • 67 percent don’t think the steep, three-year decline of law school applications will reverse itself in the 2013-2014 admissions cycle
  • 78 percent of schools say they accepted scores from the June 2013 LSAT administration for the academic year that started in fall 2013, an increase of 10 percent over last year
  • 25 percent agree with President Obama’s recent statement that law schools should think about condensing their current three year programs into two year programs for all JD candidates

The survey polled 127 admission’s officers from the nation’s 203 American Bar Association-approved law schools, including 10 from the top 25 according to U.S. News and World Report. The full survey results can be found on Kaplan’s website.

Contributing Author

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Zach Warren

Zach Warren is Assistant Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, where he oversees online content submissions and administers InsideCounsel's enewsletters. Zach specializes in new media and multimedia...

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