We are basically witnessing the end of demand for law school.
When the real estate market collapsed in 2007 the whole economy came down with it. Seven years later large portions of the country have recovered. Times are not exactly flush, and far too many Americans still don’t have jobs, but real estate has finally recovered and the country on the whole is in a relatively safe financial position.
But not everything has come back. One of those things still suffering is the American law school. Back before the recession there was a fairly high demand for a legal education. The financial wizardry of the early years of this century meant a need for vast armies of lawyers to manage all of those transactions. And companies had the money to pay for it.
Now that’s over. And so no one wants to go to law school. This graph explains the whole thing:
This is, apparently, the smallest law school class in 40 years. Law schools admitted only 39,675 first-year students last year. That’s a 30 percent decline from just four years ago. But 40 years ago America also had 53 fewer law schools. Now if only some more law schools could just close up shop, this whole supply and demand thing might work itself out.
But then, as Hamilton Nolan puts it at Gawker, it can probably go down a whole hell of a lot more. The whole reason most people want to go to law school is because of dreams of great success in corporate law. They just write that they want to work in “public interest” for the essay section of the application. “If about 1% of the people who go to law school saying ‘I want to go into public interest law and really help people’ actually end up with public interest law jobs that actually help people,” Nolan writes, “law school enrollment can fall by another 99% with no harm to the general public.”