LSAC, “Current Volume Summary”
Final applicant count: 59,426
Final application count: 385,358
Importantly, the change in applicants in 2013 over 2012 is less than the change in 2012 over 2011: -8,531 applicants this year versus -10,924 last year. This suggests that the applicant plateau might be approaching. Maybe -6,000 next year and not -10,000. The number of applications, however, has plummeted, which means the number applications per applicant has dropped as well. Since young people tend to send out more applications than older people, it’s probably them.
Indeed, the projected final applicant count was much lower back in January (~54,000, which is -9.0 percent from 59,426), meaning the number of applicants “accelerated” into in the cycle. Behold:
You can see the same thing happening in 2012 and 2011. People whom we would’ve expected to send out many applications early in the cycle aren’t doing so. Conversely, in 2010, the final estimate in March was high, which indicates fewer people applied than were expected. This was when the applicant nosedive began.
Still, the early-year variance has been quite pronounced in the last three cycles. It could be law schools shifting their application deadlines further back, or it could be a “swap” in applicants, like, for every two younger applicants who’re bailing, another older one is taking his or her place in April.
Oh, and lest you agree with a handful of law professors’ rationalizations, the number of applicants isn’t down because the economy is recovering:
The number of applicants per school has reached a record low going back as far as the ABA can tell us. It probably hasn’t been like this since the late ’60s/early ’70s. Probably no one in legal academia has ever experienced anything like this before. In fact, probably no one in higher education has experienced anything like this before.