2021 Saw Massive Increases in Law School Enrollment. Can the Job Market Keep Up?

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Law schools saw a 12% increase in first-year law students from 2020 to 2021. Now experts are wondering, will there be enough jobs?

ABA Journal recently spoke to law school deans and professors who shared their predictions on whether employment will keep up to pace with law school enrollment.

SIGNIFICANT ENROLLMENT JUMP ACROSS SEVERAL LAW SCHOOLS

Law schools across the nation grew their first-year class by historic numbers during the 2021 admissions cycle. At Wake Forest University School of Law, the 1L class increased nearly 90%. George Mason University (GMU) Antonin Scalia Law School grew its first-year class by 76%. The law school’s first-year class jumped from 149 students in 2020 to 262 students in 2021, according to the ABA Journal.

“We do not expect to have that large of a class for next year, even though applications are up. We are built for a student body that is closer to somewhere between 180 and 200,” Ken Randall, GMU’s law school dean, tells ABA Journal.

At Faulkner University Thomas Goode Jones School of Law, the 1L enrollment increased by nearly 62%. To compensate with growing enrollment, the law school recently hired a tenure-track professor and a visiting professor.

“Our building can accommodate the size of the student body. Next year we hope it will be a little bit larger, but who knows,” Charles Campbell, the dean of Faulkner Law, tells ABA Journal.

WILL EMPLOYMENT KEEP UP?

While law schools can accommodate for an increase in students, experts worry that the legal job market won’t keep up with the pace of enrollment.

“It does not seem to me that the entry level labor market can handle this many 1Ls,” Kyle McEntee, Executive Director at Law School Transparency, tells Reuters. “Schools should have continued to decrease enrollment, at least a little bit.”

Jerome Organ, a professor at Minnesota’s University of St. Thomas School of Law, says that to keep employment outcomes around 80% for 2024 grads, the legal profession would need to add 3,200 more jobs.

Despite the concerns, many law school deans are confident that the increased enrollment won’t bring down job outcomes.

“We have new talent in our career services offices. We are admitting people we believe can get good jobs,” Susan Freiwald, the dean of University of San Francisco School of Law, tells ABA Journal.

Sources: ABA Journal, Reuters, Reuters, TaxProf Blog

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