Friday, November 6, 2009

Law School Enrollment Bubble: Law School's Applications Up 62%

I previously posted about the relative lack of wisdom of buying a law degree at the height of a bubble in law school attendance.  Frankly, the supply and demand relationship is not in balance and the increased enrollment in law school just makes things worse for law students.  However, a number of people are clearly not getting the message.
For example, as reported by Above The Law, applications at Iowa Law School are up 62% this year.  Now, ignoring the author's East Coast provincialism, Iowa is indeed a good law school, the tuition is relatively low for a law school, and they have been aggressively marketing themselves lately -all things that would operate to increase the number of applications.

However, a 62% increase in applications -  especially in this economy - seems utterly insane.  If the increase in applications really reflects a 62% increase in people wanting to go to law school in general, then it just does not make sense.

On the other hand, here are a couple of factors that might be worth considering to put this impact in perspective.

First, it would be interesting to compare any change in application percentage in more expensive schools as compared to Iowa.  For example, in this bad economy, students may be deciding not to apply to expensive schools in favor of less expensive schools like Iowa.  If so, then Iowa's increase in applications does not necessarily indicate a growing number of people interested in law school - just a growing interest in Iowa.

Second, in a bad economy, students may be applying to more total law schools.  For example, instead of applying to 5 law schools, students may be applying to 10 or 20.  If so, then an increase in applications does not necessarily indicate a growing number of people interested in law school.

I really hope that these last two factors are the real explanation for the increase number of applications at Iowa.  Otherwise, if the 62% increase in applications actually translates to a 62% increase in the number of new lawyers, the supply and demand would be pushed even further out of balance and law students would be even more adversely impacted.

In conclusion, if you are thinking of going to law school, right now is probably about the worst time in decades to do so.  I'm not saying that you should not go at all (far be it from me to get in the way of the career that you chose when you were a kid watching TV), but just delay going to law school a few years until the numbers are more in your favor. 

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