Law Schools May Finally Be Recovering

by Naomi Nishihara on

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LSAT takers and applications are up, and for the first time in years, law schools are optimistic. But that doesn’t mean another golden age is around the corner. For one thing, a new Kaplan Test Prep survey reveals most schools still think there are too many graduates.

One hundred and eleven law schools around the country participated in the annual survey of law school admissions officers. The results, released Thursday (Oct. 6), show that despite optimism for the overall state of legal education, schools are still worried about something else: the tight job market for newly minted lawyers.

SATURATED JOB MARKET

The National Advisory Council on Institutional Quality and Integrity recently recommended to the U.S. Department of Education that the American Bar Association be stripped of its ability to accredit any new law schools for at least one year. Though the recommendation was rejected, the Kaplan survey found that 52% of participating law schools supported it. On top of that, 65% agreed it would be good if at least a few schools closed.

“Law schools are in the midst of what we might call a fragile application and financial recovery,” says Jeff Thomas, executive director of pre-law programs, Kaplan Test Prep. “We see cautious optimism, but by no means are they roaring back to life, so opening additional law schools could set things back by contributing to a job market saturated with too many lawyers looking for a limited number of jobs.”

Still, the survey also found that nearly 92% feel “more optimistic about the state of legal education” than they did a year ago, and 78% — up from 46% last year — said they expect to see an increase in applications for the 2016-2017 cycle.

ASPIRING ATTORNEYS ENCOURAGED TO BE ‘THOUGHTFUL’

And despite wishing for fewer graduates in the job market, only 24% of the schools reported cutting the number of seats in their 2016 first-year class. This is down from 35% for the 2015 first-year class, and 54% for the 2014 class.

“The good news for pre-law students is that the data shows that the worst of the law school application crunch and job crisis is likely over,” Thomas says, “but we encourage aspiring attorneys to be thoughtful about what they want from law school and what they want to do with their degree.”

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