Law school has a bit of a bad rap lately. A few years ago, a downturn in legal employment made clear that law school really didn’t offer the kind of odds of stable employment that many students expected in return for their six-figure investment.
Since then, law school applications have fallen. Big time. LSAT administrations are down 41% from their peak in 2009-2010. The number of applicants to law school declined 42% from 2005 through last cycle, and stands to be even lower this year.
At the same time, there are signs that the job market is recovering. Hiring looks to be on the way up. Take all of these facts together, and it’s looking like a good time to apply to law school.
The decline in applicants means that there’s less competition to get into law school, and applications are down the most for those with high LSAT scores, so there’s even less competition up there. The decline in law school enrollments means that there’s less, weaker competition for those oh-so-precious jobs. Plus, there are more jobs.
That all sounds rosy, but there are caveats. Any good LSAT student should know better than to mix up comparative and absolute statements; it’s a better time to go to law school, but that doesn’t mean law school is a good choice for everyone. Some law schools have had truly abominable employment figures over the last few years, and those numbers aren’t going to magically fix themselves. They’ll improve somewhat, but a slight improvement from awful is still pretty bad.
Where does this leave you, as an aspiring lawyer? It’s a much better time to be you than, say, four years ago. You’ll probably get into a better law school and get a better job than alternate-universe-four-years-ago you. But don’t take this as license to just go to law school and trust that everything will work itself out. It’s still important to put together a strong application. If you’re in school, don’t slack off on that GPA. Strive for the best LSAT score you can. Polish that personal statement.
And do your research. There’s much better employment data out there these days than there used to be. Look for schools that give you a good chance of doing the kind of work you want to do, where you want to do it. Take heart in the improving situation for law school applicants but think critically about your goals and make informed choices.