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 YearNumber of ABA Accredited Schools1L EnrollmentTotal JD Enrollment
201420437,924119,775
201320239,675128,710
201220144,518139,262
201120148,697146,288
201020052,488147,525
200920051,646145,239
200820049,414142,922
200720049,082141,719
200619848,937141,031
200519548,132140,298

Source: The ABA

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