You may have seen the Slate article that made the rounds on social media last week with the catchy title “Apply to Law School Now!” The premise of the article is, not surprisingly, that if you’re considering law school you should apply now. Why? Because the number of people graduating from law school has decreased, meaning that there’s less competition for entry-level legal jobs; if employment numbers for recent graduates hold, the percentage of recent graduates who find full-time, long-term employment will increase. Slate does point out a couple caveats – namely, that not all JD programs are created equal – but concludes that, due to the general upward trend, it’s a good time to be applying to law school.
While other news outlets are a little more cautious in their optimism than Slate, Slate’s article is consistent with the good news that we’ve been hearing about law school for months. The Wall Street Journal posted an article last week with a similar thesis: while overall legal employment is still down from its peak during the glory days, the number of law school graduates has decreased as well, meaning that the number of new graduates is now swinging back into line with the number of positions available for those graduates.
Likewise, our own Yuko Sin pointed out a couple months ago that the employment numbers were up for recent graduates and suggested that the trickle of good news was leading to a slight uptick in the number of people taking the LSAT, which in turn could lead to an uptick in the number of people attending law school.
This brings us to the million-dollar question. Analyses like Slate’s require assuming that the trends we’ve been seeing over the last few years – number of law school applicants down, number of available positions staying roughly the same or even increasing a little – will remain roughly the same. However, the number of people taking the LSAT is trending slightly upwards, and people who were previously on the fence about law school might now be more likely to apply in light of all this good news that we’ve been hearing. If the number of people attending law school starts to creep upwards again, the number of recent graduates could again start outpacing the number of available jobs.
The bottom line is that, although we’ve been hearing a lot of good news recently, there are no guarantees when it comes to law school and employment numbers. The general consensus is that the worst is over, at least for now. That said, anyone considering law school should still take into account the employment statistics of the specific school(s) he or she wants to attend, as well as how much debt will be incurred in the pursuit of that elusive JD degree.
As Blueprinter emeritus Matt Shinners once said, “law school isn’t necessarily a bad decision, but it’s very easy to make a bad decision by going to law school.” Good news for recent graduates is just that – good news – but it shouldn’t necessarily be a huge influence for someone who is trying to decide whether to go to law school.