Law school enrollment is on the rise, but can the job market ever match it?

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It’s probably no surprise that enrollments for 2021 have greatly exceeded enrollments for 2020, but whether this is a positive development is hotly debated.

According to recently released data from the American Bar Association, 196 law schools approved by the ABA to confer the Juris Doctor degree reported a total JD enrollment of 117,501 for the fall 2021 term. This is an increase of 2,981 students (2.6%) compared to 2020.

An additional 21,044 students were enrolled in non-JD programs (LL.M., master’s, and certificate), a decrease of 248 (1.2%) from 2020.

This brings total law school enrollment for fall 2021 to 138,545, an increase of 2,733 (2%) from 2020.

Meanwhile, law schools reported that 42,718 freshmen began their studies in fall 2021 (plus previous winter/spring/summer terms for schools with multiple start dates). This is an increase of 4,516 (11.8%) 1L students from the 2020 reporting cycle.

An 11.8% increase in freshman enrollment is huge, law school admissions consultant Mike Spivey told Law.com on Wednesday.

“Will the legal job market grow 12% in three years?” Spivey said. “Where does all the slack go? »

It’s great revenue for law schools to bring in students, but if the legal market can’t accommodate them, it’s not so good for the schools, he said.

Mike Spivey, founder of law school admissions firm Spivey Consulting. Courtesy picture

Spivey said “if you see a 13% increase in applications, you don’t expect a 12% increase in signups.”

Law schools were admitting too many students too early, which Spivey said was due to “poor marketing communication from people with the data.

“There are law schools that would have been slower to admit and would likely have brought in smaller class sizes had they used the raw data compared to the Law School Admission Council’s forecast,” Spivey said.

Spivey said schools reported that LSAC kept saying enrollment numbers would eventually level off.

The law schools had relied on a source “that they historically trusted,” Spivey said.

LSAC responded with the following statement to Law.com:

“This has been LSAC’s practice over recent admissions cycles – and 2020-2021 was no exception – to ensure that schools and applicants have plenty of transparency and visibility into applicant volumes. and score trends. We post application volumes on our website daily, broken down by race/ethnicity, score group, state and region. In the 2020-2021 cycle, we have taken the unprecedented step of providing five periodic interim score reports to all member schools, so they can see detailed trends in applicant volumes and LSAT scores so they can can take into account all trends in their global thinking.

Additionally, the LSAC said, “The numbers have gone down. At one point, they were 30-50% higher than the previous year. The numbers eventually fell to 12.6%.”

Ann Perry, aAssociate Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at the University of Chicago Law School, told Law.com on Wednesday that she had not heard any complaints about the LSAC.

“We were constantly reviewing our data and the LSAC data,” Perry said. “and we didn’t register too much.”

Perry said they made fewer offers, adding that the University of Chicago Law School admitted 188 students in 2020 and 190 in 2021.

Forty-three schools reported smaller 1L classes for this admissions cycle and 153 schools reported an increase or no change in their new 1L classes compared to fall 2020 law school enrollment data. compared to fall 2020, according to the ABA.

Spivey attributed the overall increase in registrations to three factors: 1) it was an election year; 2) the pandemic; and 3) the struggling economy.

“When people can’t find jobs, there’s always an increase in graduate school enrollment,” Spivey said.

Marc Miller, dean of the James E. Rogers School of Law at the University of Arizona, told Law.com on Wednesday, “I think COVID explains everything. What hasn’t changed?

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