What Shrinking Class Sizes Mean For Law School Applicants

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There are many ways law school admission deans are dealing with declining applicant numbers. Some find themselves weeping uncontrollably at MasterCard commercials. Others have turned to the bottle. And, finally, a few are deciding to decrease the number of admitted applicants.

The most recent of these is Loyola Chicago, following close behind Northwestern, it’s more prestigious neighbor. Both announced a 10% reduction in their incoming class sizes, citing the smaller law school applicant pool and the shifting legal market.

I, for one, applaud these law schools for taking the initiative. While I’m sure their motivations are less than magnanimous (after all, it’s a lot easier to maintain your medians when you’re admitting significantly fewer students), it is definitely a step in the right direction. Law schools have been pumping out too many graduates for too many years. And even though Northwestern isn’t having issues with placing its graduates in solid jobs, decreasing the overall size of the job applicant pool through shrinking their class size will alleviate some of the problems seen by graduates of lower-ranked law schools, even if the trickle-down effect only goes so far.

The problem remains, however, that a minority of schools decreasing their class sizes by 10% will not shrink the number of lawyers looking for jobs by enough to actually meet the decreased demand for their services. Additionally, the law schools least likely to decrease their class sizes are also the ones that are least likely to place their graduates in jobs.

So what does it all mean for prospective law students? Well, it’s definitely a counterbalance to the decrease in law school applicants. The drop in those applying to law school makes it easier to gain admission; smaller class sizes makes it more difficult. However, the small decrease in class sizes at a handful of law schools won’t radically alter the admissions landscape the way that a huge decrease in applicants has over the past few years. It’s still a good time to be applying to law schools.

Still, the legal market is weak, and while it might be stabilizing, it’s not on its way back to good health quite yet. So, as always, make sure you prep enough for the LSAT so that you can gain admission to a law school that gives you a healthy shot at the job of your dreams.

Mar 25, 2013 - 6:30 pm - By Matt Shinners
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Photo By Shaylor Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)
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