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Law School Enrollment at 27-Year Low
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The American Bar Association reports that law school enrollment is at its lowest in nearly three decades.

Summary: According to the American Bar Association, law school enrollment is at a record low—the lowest in nearly three decades.

Law school enrollment has been steadily declining, and that trend continued this fall. According to the American Bar Association, enrollment dropped close to 7 percent from 2013. The New York Times reports that enrollment has declined 17.5 percent from 2010, during which record-breaking enrollment was reported. Enrollment is at the lowest point since 1987—a time during which there were far fewer law schools.


For the fall semester, 204 law schools that are accredited by the bar association reported 37,924 full- and part-time students had enrolled for their first year of law school. This is a decline of 1,751 students, roughly 4.4 percent, since 2013.

In March, the ABA reported reduced enrollment at law schools nationwide.

Four years ago, law school enrollment peaked at 52,488 first-year students. This year’s numbers reflect a decline of 27.7 percent since that time. In 2010, the recession had taken its toll and many signed up for law school to obtain professional degrees in hopes of securing job and financial stability.

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However, the job market for attorneys has been gloomy since the recession, and many prospective students have had second thoughts about accumulating hundreds of thousands of dollars in law school debt to commit to a career that may have few jobs available. Fewer students are signing up for the Law School Admissions Test, with this year’s reported numbers down 8.1 percent from last year, and down 50 percent since the same test period in 2009.

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In addition, less-than-stellar employment figures from the bar association demonstrate that nine months after the class of 2013 graduated, not even two-thirds had found jobs that required passing the bar exam. Law schools are scrambling to attract students, especially those whose excellent grades and LSAT scores would boost a school’s national ranking.

Boyd Law School has actually increased its tuition, though many law schools are lowering theirs.

Each December, the bar association publishes statistics from law schools. Law schools are accredited by the bar association’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. Schools must post the data on their individual websites by December 15, and the American Bar Association posts the numbers online as well.

In total, 119,775 students are currently enrolled in either full-time or part-time law school programs. This is 8,935 fewer students than the fall of 2013, and a 17.5 percent decrease since 2010. The total enrollment is the lowest level since 1987, when there were only 169 accredited law schools in operation.

In 2014, 127 law schools, close to two-thirds of all accredited law schools, reported declines in enrollment since last year. However, 69 schools actually had bigger classes than a year ago, likely a reflection of the expansion of cross-disciplinary offerings and reduced tuition at these schools. More detailed information will be released by the bar association in the coming months. A task force has also been formed that will address the increasing cost of legal education. That task force will be led by Dennis W. Archer, a former mayor of Detroit and former bar association president.

Read about law schools reducing their tuition here.

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