The Law School Bubble is Bursting

The law-school bubble may have just burst.

According to data from the Law School Admission Council, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, the number of applicants to law school has dropped a whopping 11.5 percent year-to-year—to the lowest level since 2001 at this point in the application cycle. Some schools are still accepting applications, so the numbers will change in the coming weeks, says the council's Wendy Margolis. But about 90 percent of applications are in, and the pattern is clear.

It is a remarkable turnaround. The number of applicants to law school has waxed and waned over the course of the past decade, but the general trend has been up. And applications took a further turn skyward when the recession hit. Between 2007 and 2009, the number of LSAT takers jumped 20 percent, and the number of applicants swelled 6.3 percent. (Between 2001 and 2002, after the dot-com bubble burst, the number of applicants actually jumped more, by nearly 20 percent.)

Over the past decade, the number of law-school students has also steadily increased, as universities have opened or expanded their schools. Law schools tend to be moneymakers: They're cheap to set up, and tuition runs high, even at poorly rated programs. Thus, universities have added them on with relish, and the list of approved law schools has increased 9 percent in the past decade, to 200. That means that the number of new lawyers minted every year has not stopped growing, either: Law schools awarded 44,004 degrees last year, up 13 percent in a decade.

This article first appeared in Slate. To continue reading this article, please click here.

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