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Law School Enrollments are Plummeting. What Happens Next?
Daily Beast ^ | 01/19/2013 | by Megan McArdle

Posted on 01/19/2013 7:53:16 PM PST by SeekAndFind

"I couldn't do this if I didn't have tenure."

That's what law professor Paul Campos told me, sitting at a table in Brasserie Beck after a Cato panel on law schools. By "this", he meant "crtiticize law schools for their graduation rates", something he's been doing, vociferously, since 2011. In an interview with me a few months ago, Campos laid out the dire math facing current law students:

I found that half of our graduates, like more than half of graduates nationally, weren't getting real legal jobs at all, and the majority of those who did get jobs weren't making enough money to service their loans in a timely manner. I was also shocked by the radical increase in the cost legal education, and what has turned out to be a two decade long contraction in the market for the services of lawyers. This is a disastrous combination for our graduates, and indeed for lawyers at all levels of the profession.

At the Cato Panel, Campos and Tamanaha argued that while lawyers from mid-ranked schools have actually been struggling for years, the last decade has seen a radical collapse in the fortunes of all but the very elite. Enrollments have expanded, and tuition has skyrocketed, even as the profession is contracting. Technology and outsourcing are taking over the most mundane tasks, leaving less work for lawyers. At the same time, they argue that federal student loans have allowed schools to ratchet up tuition. That means that the schools, rather than the graduates, are capturing more of the value of the degree . . . to the point where many schools are capturing more value than the degree actually confers. Professor Campos argues that at this point, the expected value of all but the most elite degrees is probably negative unless you have personal connections to help you get a job afterwards.

This has not made him popular with his colleagues, which is why he's grateful for tenure: it enables him and Tamanaha to question the whole system that employs them. But he also recognizes that tenure is what makes his colleagues so resistant to his arguments. Tenured law professors have one of the best jobs in the country right now: it's dry, it's safe, it pays well, and it offers incredible autonomy. And you can't be fired.

What Campos and Tamahana are saying implies that the entire apparatus of law school needs to change radically, with fewer professors more focused on scholarship. At this point, says Campos, law school is largely serving the needs of only one group: tenured law professors. At the expense of kids who end up with six figure debts and no jobs. During the panel, Campos argued that many people would be better off without the degree even if it were free, because having a JD on your resume, and no job, sends terrible signals to future employers: you couldn't get a job as a lawyer, you're a smartypants knowitall despite your lack of real-world experience, you'll sue everyone if you don't like the office coffee. People may be better off coming up with a story to cover their three-year resume gap and just taking the degree off entirely.

But the system may not even benefit law professors for much longer, because in an unexpected development, enrollments are collapsing:

Law schools are facing the second straight year of plummeting applications. Yet colleagues around the country have assured me that there's nothing to worry about because those applications are simply returning to "historic levels." Apparently we're going back to 2002, or maybe 2000. Except that we're not. According to the Law School Admission Council, about 68,000 students applied for spots in this fall's entering class. Almost half way through the current admission cycle, it looks like about 53,000 students will apply for the fall 2013 class. When did law schools last see that number of applicants? Not in any year since 1983, the earliest year for which I can find data. For that fall, ABA-accredited law schools chose among 71,755 applicants--and there were only 173 accredited schools that year. The lowest number of applicants recorded during the last thirty years was in 1985, when only 60,338 people competed for 40,796 spots. At this point in the admission cycle, it's hard to believe that applicants for fall 2013 will top 60,000--or even 55,000. Those numbers imply an entering law school class in the mid-thirty-thousand range, since not all applicants are qualified, and not all admits enroll. Those are numbers we haven't seen in decades--but there are now a couple dozen more acredited law schools. That means shrinking incoming classes--possibly to the point where a bunch of law schools can no longer support themselves.

This will have a few knock-on effects worth thinking about. The first thing to consider is that law schools have opened at such a big clip in part because they are cash cows for the schools that operate them. You don't need a bunch of expensive labs, just some classrooms and some law professors. Yet students pay tuitions much higher than that of other graduate programs. Shrinking or closing law programs will put financial pressure on other departments.

Another thing to think about is what happens to departments like English and Political Science. When I was an English major, law school was the obvious backup plan if you couldn't get a job--indeed, more than a few kids chose it in order to ensure that they had the best possible GPA for their law school applications. If it becomes clear that this is no longer a sure-fire rescue plan, do kids start rethinking the interesting-but-non-remunerative departments?

But the largest knock-on effect is, obviously, more unemployed law professors. Ideally, this will happen mostly through attrition--people who simply never get hired into the legal academy (note that this worsens the job outlook for law grads at least slightly). But when an entire school shuts down, its professors are going to be thrown on the job market. And it's going to be pretty hard for them to find another teaching job, given those enrollment numbers. What happens to someone who has been teaching law for 20 years? Many of them are very smart people who might once have been great lawyers, but comparatively few of them have actual experience practicing law. When a law school shuts down, the professors will go from having one of the best jobs ever, to having to scramble for a job in a pretty lackluster market. Of course, at worst we're talking about a few hundred, maybe a few thousand people, trickling onto the market over the next decade. It's not even going to show up in the labor statistics. But arguably it's a symptom of something much larger: the breakdown of even stalwart, safe options for middle class employment. Where are all of those non-lawyers, and non-law-professors going to go? And what if they're only the canary in the coal mine for doctors and MBAs and government workers? What if the entire professional class is about to lose its tenure?


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Education; Society
KEYWORDS: college; highereducation; lawschool; lawyers

1 posted on 01/19/2013 7:53:24 PM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

This is good news.


2 posted on 01/19/2013 7:58:32 PM PST by Fido969
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To: SeekAndFind
So there is some hope for our country. Less lawyers can only be a good thing. Most FReeper lawyers excluded, of course. :)
3 posted on 01/19/2013 8:00:02 PM PST by Colorado Doug (Now I know how the Indians felt to be sold out for a few beads and trinkets)
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To: SeekAndFind

He gets it right toward the end. It isn’t just law school. The entire academic industry is non-sustainable with its current model.


4 posted on 01/19/2013 8:01:11 PM PST by PAR35
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To: SeekAndFind

Please, oh please let this mean there will be fewer lawyer programs on TV. Enough already.


5 posted on 01/19/2013 8:03:00 PM PST by doc1019
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To: SeekAndFind

What do you call 1,000 dead lawyers at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean?


6 posted on 01/19/2013 8:03:25 PM PST by FredZarguna (A good start.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Best bet is to have Daddy or Mommy as a lawyer and use their contacts to find work and KEEP it.


7 posted on 01/19/2013 8:06:33 PM PST by Ciexyz
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To: SeekAndFind

Best bet is to have Daddy or Mommy as a lawyer and use their contacts to find work and KEEP it.


8 posted on 01/19/2013 8:06:47 PM PST by Ciexyz
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To: SeekAndFind

Well, like the old saying goes, Those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach.


9 posted on 01/19/2013 8:06:47 PM PST by Fast Moving Angel (A moral wrong is not a civil right: No religious sanction of an irreligious act.)
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To: FredZarguna

“What do you call 1,000 dead lawyers at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean?”

A good start?


10 posted on 01/19/2013 8:08:10 PM PST by EQAndyBuzz (I own a weapon to protect my family from those wanting to take that weapon away.)
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To: SeekAndFind
Do kids start rethinking the interesting-but-non-remunerative departments?

The author acts as if they had some other options. Most of the kids in liberal arts and humanities couldn't pass a Calculus course or Comp Sci 101 if their lives depended on it. Their only other option is "government service." Those jobs don't have especially rosy prospects going forward, either.

11 posted on 01/19/2013 8:09:22 PM PST by FredZarguna (A good start.)
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To: SeekAndFind
Do kids start rethinking the interesting-but-non-remunerative departments?

The author acts as if they had some other options. Most of the kids in liberal arts and humanities couldn't pass a Calculus course or Comp Sci 101 if their lives depended on it. Their only other option is "government service." Those jobs don't have especially rosy prospects going forward, either.

12 posted on 01/19/2013 8:09:41 PM PST by FredZarguna (A good start.)
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To: EQAndyBuzz

Seriously, the reason law school attendance is plummeting is because the liberal arts majors who used to go to law school are getting dumber by the semester and cannot pass the bar.

Pretty soon Starbucks will be offering legal advice.


13 posted on 01/19/2013 8:10:19 PM PST by EQAndyBuzz (I own a weapon to protect my family from those wanting to take that weapon away.)
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To: SeekAndFind

The country improves ...


14 posted on 01/19/2013 8:11:08 PM PST by faithhopecharity
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To: Colorado Doug

Lawyers/attorneys have uses and they are tools we use in business, especially when dealing in my industry. Not all are scumbag liberals.

On the other hand, I was just reading my Filipino bud’s weekly newspaper and every page had an immigration attorney pimping their firm.


15 posted on 01/19/2013 8:11:47 PM PST by max americana (Make the world a better place by punching a liberal in the face)
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To: EQAndyBuzz

I couldn’t think of a good answer, because I assumed they were poached and their fins were taken for soup.


16 posted on 01/19/2013 8:12:45 PM PST by Jonty30 (What Islam and secularism have in common is that they are both death cults.)
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To: Fido969
A double silver lining! At first glance I didn't think about less indoctrination workers liberal professors.
17 posted on 01/19/2013 8:13:10 PM PST by Colorado Doug (Now I know how the Indians felt to be sold out for a few beads and trinkets)
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To: SeekAndFind; a fool in paradise; Slings and Arrows

You won’t be laughing when as a result of this shortage the state legislatures and Congress find themselves unable to pass thousands of new laws each year for you like they are doing now!


18 posted on 01/19/2013 8:13:43 PM PST by Revolting cat! (Bad things are wrong! Ice cream is delicious!)
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To: SeekAndFind

I was a uni at the height on law school enrollment during the early 80’s. EVERYONE wanted to be a lawyer. So much so.....the uni build a new law school with all of the $$$$ pouring in. The market was saturated. “Paper Chase” really inspired many.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qx22TyCge7w

I dated a LS student at the time. Most of them had aspirations in politics. Only good thing to come out of that relationship was 3rd row seats to see THE ““Ronaldus Magnus” speak and I was in awe. ;-) Law students had the prime seats, of course.


19 posted on 01/19/2013 8:16:21 PM PST by RushIsMyTeddyBear (Great vid by ShorelineMike! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOZjJk6nbD4&feature=plcp)
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To: EQAndyBuzz

Yeah. It was in the tag line. I’m having a very hard time seeing a down side to having fewer lawyers.


20 posted on 01/19/2013 8:19:32 PM PST by FredZarguna ("The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." -- Henry the Sixth Part II, 4.2.71-78)
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To: Colorado Doug

I feel the same way even though some of my best friends are lawyers ;)


21 posted on 01/19/2013 8:20:35 PM PST by ReformationFan
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To: SeekAndFind
Law School Enrollments are Plummeting. What Happens Next?

Celebration?

22 posted on 01/19/2013 8:25:06 PM PST by Yo-Yo (Is the /sarc tag really necessary?)
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To: SeekAndFind

Education is going to have to take a long look at itself. Probably about 80% of courses don’t need to be taught at a formal setting and can be learned by the student, on his time, with only a qualifying test need to be taken to be eligible for the rest of the courses,


23 posted on 01/19/2013 8:29:55 PM PST by Jonty30 (What Islam and secularism have in common is that they are both death cults.)
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I’m not sure what’s next, but crying about it isn’t it.

Thanks SeekAndFind.


24 posted on 01/19/2013 8:31:38 PM PST by SunkenCiv (Romney would have been worse, if you're a dumb ass.)
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To: SeekAndFind
What's next?

I dunno, but it is a helluva good start in the right direction back to prosperity and competitiveness.

25 posted on 01/19/2013 8:33:33 PM PST by doorgunner69
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To: SeekAndFind

And this a problem how?


26 posted on 01/19/2013 8:44:50 PM PST by Vendome (Don't take life so seriously, you won't live through it anyway)
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To: SeekAndFind
At this point, says Campos, law school is largely serving the needs of only one group: tenured law professors.

My law school had some good tenured professors. Who also had some guys who had not published anything, or bought a new tie or sports coat since they got tenure. Their coats no longer closed over their bellies, but since they got tenure in the 1970s, their 10" wide polyester ties covered up their dress shirts where their coats gaped, giving the illusion that their clothes fit better than they did.

27 posted on 01/19/2013 8:47:33 PM PST by Pilsner
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To: SeekAndFind
Law School Enrollments are Plummeting. What Happens Next?

Hmmmmm.... let's see. Perhaps we'll have fewer lawyers...?

28 posted on 01/19/2013 9:29:29 PM PST by MV=PY (The Magic Question: Who's paying for it)
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To: Fido969

Yes, it is. The brand new young lawyers, who were worth a damn, and busted that ass for 12-14 hours 6 days a week made 150K back in 1990. It appears we have folks who refuse to work the hours required to be successful. Sadly, I believe it Gov jobs that teach those GS11-15’s to sit on their ass.


29 posted on 01/19/2013 9:54:59 PM PST by Lumper20
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To: FredZarguna

No one likes a lawyer until they need one.


30 posted on 01/19/2013 10:05:55 PM PST by Persevero (Homeschooling for Excellence since 1992)
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To: MV=PY

” Perhaps we’ll have fewer lawyers...? “

. . . and pay more if we need their services, naturally.

That’s why they have the “Bar.” To keep their numbers down so they can charge outrageous prices per hour.


31 posted on 01/19/2013 10:08:05 PM PST by Persevero (Homeschooling for Excellence since 1992)
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To: SeekAndFind

A father walks into a bookstore with his young son. The boy is holding a nickel. Suddenly, the boy starts choking, going blue in the face.

The father realizes the boy has swallowed the nickel and starts panicking, shouting for help.

A well dressed, attractive and serious looking woman, in a blue business suit is sitting at a coffee bar reading a newspaper and sipping a cup of coffee. At the sound of the commotion, she looks up, puts her coffee cup down, neatly folds the newspaper and places it on the counter, gets up from her seat and makes her way, unhurried, across the book store.

Reaching the boy, the woman carefully drops his pants; takes hold of the boy’s testicles and starts to squeeze and twist, gently at first and then ever so firmly. After a few seconds the boy convulses violently and coughs up the nickel, which the woman deftly catches in her free hand. Releasing the boy’s testicles, the woman hands the nickel to the father and walks back to her seat in the coffee bar without saying a word.

As soon as he is sure that his son has suffered no ill effects, the father rushes over to the woman and starts thanking her saying, ‘I’ve never seen anybody do anything like that before, it was fantastic. Are you a doctor?’

‘No,’ the woman replied. ‘Divorce attorney.’


32 posted on 01/19/2013 10:28:22 PM PST by expat1000
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To: SeekAndFind

Anything that makes life suck for lawyers makes it good for the rest of us.

Sorry, but I really do feel that way. We have about 10 times as many lawyers as we need in this country, and have for too long.


33 posted on 01/19/2013 10:33:52 PM PST by spodefly (This is my tag line. There are many like it, but this one is mine.)
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To: SeekAndFind

The credentialed sectors of the economy are bloated and it is way past time for them to shrink. Licensing laws have propped up these labor monopolies long enough and for decades few complained.

The division of labor needs shaking up.


34 posted on 01/19/2013 10:35:26 PM PST by LifeComesFirst (http://rw-rebirth.blogspot.com/)
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To: SeekAndFind

The credentialed sectors of the economy are bloated and it is way past time for them to shrink. Licensing laws have propped up these labor monopolies long enough and for decades few complained.

The division of labor needs shaking up.


35 posted on 01/19/2013 10:35:44 PM PST by LifeComesFirst (http://rw-rebirth.blogspot.com/)
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To: Persevero

The boomer generation was huge, mostly white and generally well educated and ready to work hard. Boomers inherited the previous generation’s American-American culture. They are being replaced by a smaller generation that is less educated and of a changed marxist tribal culture that is not as independent and ambitous.

Everything is going to shrink. We are more socialist victim/tribal minded...third world. Not much anyone can do about it.


36 posted on 01/19/2013 10:44:42 PM PST by SaraJohnson
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To: expat1000

The whole of academia is contracting. Part of the change is from the rise of for-profit online universities. In many ways the criticism of these institutions is justified however, one of the main reasons that traditional universities hate these institutions is because they are outcome based without having the PC liberal indoctrination.

What is interesting is that students will choose these over traditional universities even though they are actually more expensive. I think having to put up with lower amounts of idiotic PC crap is a good reason to use an online university


37 posted on 01/19/2013 10:46:20 PM PST by Fai Mao
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To: Jonty30

Dennis Prager stated the other night-—and after reading “John Dewey and the Decline of American Education: How the Patron Saint of Schools has corrupted Teaching and Learning” (on purpose—he was a Fabian Socialist)-—Dennis stated that the longer students are in school-—for college and graduate schools-—the dumber they become.

They literally have all the “Common Sense” and Virtue beat out of them.

This is SO true-—because Marxism is irrational and evil and dehumanizing-—throws out Laws of Nature and Nature’s God and Wisdom—which is where understanding of true human nature is found-—

...so every “experience” that kids learn—about men and women, mother and father, and life are THROWN out-—and they are conditioned and “reeducated” to believe in unnatural, irrational things-—like men and women are interchangeable and Capitalism and Free Markets are “bad” and the sodomite Socialist Keynesian economics (collectivism) is superior.

They learn John Austin’s Legal Positivism===where law can be separated from morality—although Justice is a Virtue. It all is GARBAGE and LIES and never teaches Truth and Wisdom like the pre-Dewey days when Classics and the Bible were standard at every school.


38 posted on 01/19/2013 10:49:28 PM PST by savagesusie (Right Reason According to Nature = Just Law)
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To: Persevero
No one likes a lawyer until they need one.

Needing is a necessary, but by no means sufficient, condition for liking.

39 posted on 01/19/2013 11:38:20 PM PST by FredZarguna ("The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." -- Henry the Sixth Part II, 4.2.71-78)
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To: SeekAndFind
"Can you imagine a world without lawyers?"

40 posted on 01/20/2013 4:52:17 AM PST by Oztrich Boy (I think, therefore I am what I yam, and that's all I yam - Rene "Popeye" Descartes)
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To: Revolting cat!
You won’t be laughing when as a result of this shortage the state legislatures and Congress find themselves unable to pass thousands of new laws each year for you like they are doing now!

That future possibility keeps me awake at night, worrying, worrying...

41 posted on 01/20/2013 6:43:23 AM PST by OldPossum
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To: expat1000

A real lawyer would have kept the nickel.


42 posted on 01/20/2013 7:41:19 AM PST by blueunicorn6 ("A crack shot and a good dancer")
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To: SeekAndFind

Non-lawyers compete with liberal arts grads for office work and service jobs, but have much bigger student loans.
They work as paralegals and pray for billable hours.
They go to work in civil service and add to the bureaucracy.


43 posted on 01/20/2013 8:08:14 AM PST by tbw2
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To: SeekAndFind

44 posted on 01/20/2013 8:25:32 AM PST by martin_fierro (< |:)~)
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To: Fido969

Ideed. Fewer land sharks to run for office and muck up the lives of the rest of us.
Let ‘em study something useful like engineering where they might actually contribute to society rather than screw it up further.


45 posted on 01/20/2013 10:16:15 AM PST by Dick Bachert (An ARMED society is a POLITE society!)
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To: Yo-Yo

What happens next... go after the ones that graduated already...lol


46 posted on 01/20/2013 4:52:48 PM PST by willyd (Don't shoot, we're Republicans!)
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