Week 49: 51,300 Applicants Projected for 2014

The LSAC tells us that some people are still applying to law school.

No. Applicants Over App Cycle

No. Applications Over App Cycle

Applicants are already down 13.6 percent this year; 28 percent of the last year’s applicants had applied to at least one law school by this time last year. That gives us 51,344 applicants for 2014. I’m betting that the final applicant number won’t dip below 50,000 because last year the number of applicants accelerated in early 2013. However, I will point out that so far the preliminary applicant number has declined more this year than last year.

2011 (2010 wk. 48) – 19,696

2012 (2011 wk. 48) – 16,509 (-16.2%)

2013 (2012 wk. 49) – 16,241 (~-1.6%)

2014 (2013 wk. 49) – 14,171 (-12.7%)

One week early in the cycle might make a big difference, or application deadlines have been extended so much that people are delaying the process.

Nevertheless, to show how sudden the applicant collapse has been, there will be about as many applicants in 2014 as there were 1Ls in 2009 and 2010.

Applicants, Admitted Applicants, 1Ls

At the rate of decline, ~-8,082 fewer applicants this year, -8,530 last year, and -10,900 for 2012, the trend is slowing, so there will be a few more years of declines until then.

Heady stuff.



  1. Sure, progress.

    But the bigger picture/tragedy is trying to reconcile the admittedly rough BLS data on ~600,000 working lawyers and the 1.3 to 1.4 admitted lawyers (per ABA stats).

    And the 40-year “steady state” lawyer population of 1.8 million admitted lawyers if the long term 45,000 JD grads/per year holds.

    The 600k jobs to 1.3 million candidates ratio is in the same percentage ballpark as the well nigh infinitely delayed ABA grad stats (which started in what 2010, 2011? Perhaps 15 years after they were feasible via the internet? Imagine the ruin that might have been avoided had not the ABA been dead-at-the-switch and the NALP not utterly corrupted…).

    Hell, even the S&M law school apologia from this summer points to a ~60% graduated-to-employed-as-lawyer ratio (using Census data).

    (S&M, of course, finding immense comfort in the fact that the other 40% apparently end up in some unspecified, undefined careers that nevertheless make enough money so as to make the whole law school enterprise look like something other than the systematic financial rape that a 60% employment result might otherwise indicate…)

    1. (S&M, of course, finding immense comfort in the fact that the other 40% apparently end up in some unspecified, undefined careers that nevertheless make enough money so as to make the whole law school enterprise look like something other than the systematic financial rape that a 60% employment result might otherwise indicate…)

      But they measured a premium!

      (That line still cracks me up.)

      1. (Posted this over at TaxProf too – re: Proposed ABA Audits)

        Hmmm…just a thought to speed this (whole Audit thing) up and expand the reviewed universe greatly…why not have the ABA/NALP/etc. pay for the small expense of having Martindale and/or other law firm directory providers provide a market-wide *census* matching law schools to current firm placement.

        Sure, not all “employed” lawyers are in the directories – but a *lot* are.

        The information that a systematic analysis of data that the directory companies already have in their possession would be of immense utility and come at an infinitely faster rate than what the terminally conflicted ABA and NALP are likely to cough up.

        H*ll, didn’t someone just publish a fairly broad placement analysis online recently, gratis (I’m hunting up the link – I think the analysis may have been limited to a subset of recent grads).

        If someone can do this for free – Martindale et al can do it much better/broader for a small fee…

        Posted by: cas127 | Dec 12, 2013 5:35:40 AM

        Bingo –

        I was thinking of the broad placement outcome work cited here –


        Mr. Parker-Stephen at Lawyer Metrics might be able to talk to Martindale, etc. and generate a cumulative law school-to-firm (and firm characteristic) census in *an afternoon* if Martindale, etc. will provide free, open access to their underlying database.

        I imagine a limited number of SQL searches could yield the total number of grads, by school, by year who are employed by directory listed firms (by state, by associate/partner status, etc).

        The directories already have a *ton* of data on outcomes in the profession.

        Let’s use it – **now**.

        I think something like the above would beat the living h*ll out of S&M’s SIPP data and whatever the ABA meanders its way into.

        Year-by-year data is better than the nothing that the profession has had to work with to date.

        But why not make an effort towards a much more complete census of the profession?

        Martindale, etc. have a ton of data – it just seems to be off limits to public global/SQL-type queries.

        Martindale, etc. isn’t really giving anything up by permitting global, aggregated analysis by school, by firm – people will still pay to be posted in the directory/directories.

        Of course there is a bit of a bias problem (not everybody is in a directory) but a *lot* of lawyers are – and the treasure trove of individualized profile information (undergrad school, law school, firm, associate status, etc.) beats the hell out of anything the ABA or the BLS has.

        Outcomes for new grads is one thing.

        Outcomes for nearly *everybody* is something much better.

  2. What’s interesting is you see a big jump in applications during the previous recession (c.2001-2003), but not in the most current one (2009-present). What’s the difference? People are a lot more aware now of the problems with student debt, as well as the sheer size of it.

    1. “What’s the difference?”

      Blogs finally put the blade to long-standing law school lies.

      More and more JDs could communicate in detail and in public and compare their personal outcomes with the thin fictions that the schools had been pumping out.

      And, like all scandals, more questions led to more discoveries.

      This isn’t really a post 2008 problem – the reporting cancer goes back decades further.

      It takes time to build up 1.3 million JDs at 45k grads per year, with perhaps only ~600k jobs.

      That is *many* years of human capital misallocation.

  3. Hopefully, since like 85% of law schools have precarious finances, ala Paul Campos at Lawyers, Guns and Money, some will have to close because they are overleveraged.

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