Law School Enrollment Drops…Again

Law School

It’s the day many law school deans have been waiting for—either with excitement or trepidation. The American Bar Association (ABA) has released enrollment stats for the entering class of 2014 at the 204 ABA-accredited law schools. Spoiler alert: enrollment numbers have decreased again.

For the fourth year in a row, enrollment of 1Ls and overall enrollment figures have dropped. Law school enrollment hit a peak in 2010 with 147,525 students (full-time and part-time) studying for a JD. Currently, there are 119,775 students enrolled—a 17.5% decrease. The new numbers show a 6.9% decrease (8,935 less students) from 2013 of total enrolled J.D. students.

The entering class of 1Ls in 2014 dropped 4.4% from last year. Current enrollment for the class of 2017 (full-time and part-time) is 37,924—a 1,741-student drop from last year’s cohort. The current number is 27.7% less than 2010’s whopping enrollment of 52,488 first years. This year’s total is the lowest number of 1Ls since 1974. Specific school data has not been released by the ABA yet, but 25 schools had 1L enrollment drop by 20% or more and 64 schools had a decrease exceeding 10%.

The news isn’t doom and gloom for law schools. The number of schools with an increase in 1L enrollment compared to the previous year increased from 63 in 2013 to 69 this year. That means a smaller number of schools actually had decreased enrollments. Just 127 schools saw enrollments decrease compared to 2013. In 2013, 135 schools had a smaller entering class than in 2012.

What’s more, 33 schools saw an enrollment increase of at least 10% compared to 2013. In 2013, 27 schools had a similar increase. Also in 2013, 81 schools had an enrollment decrease of more than 10% compared to 2012. This year, only 64 schools had a decrease in enrollment of more than 10% compared to 2013.

These stats point towards a potential “rich get richer and poor get poorer” phenomenon, where weaker schools continue facing declining enrollments as higher tier programs continue to attract growing numbers.

Law School Enrollment For The Last 10 Years

Entering Year Number of ABA Accredited Schools 1L Enrollment Total JD Enrollment
2014 204 37,924 119,775
2013 202 39,675 128,710
2012 201 44,518 139,262
2011 201 48,697 146,288
2010 200 52,488 147,525
2009 200 51,646 145,239
2008 200 49,414 142,922
2007 200 49,082 141,719
2006 198 48,937 141,031
2005 195 48,132 140,298

Source: The ABA

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