Although the practice of law continues to be appealing, changing circumstances present new obstacles to pursuing a legal education. The job market for graduating lawyers is sobering, as analyzed by the Wall Street Journal: “Nationwide, only 55% of the class of 2011 had full-time, long-terms jobs that required a law degree nine months after graduation.” This decline in the legal market has been attributed to the recent recession and the fact that many believe low-end legal duties will soon be outsourced. Law school is no longer the safe haven it once was to sit out an economic downturn. There are simply no guarantees of job placement, regardless of the law school attended or the grades received.
With the growing difficulties faced by law school graduates, the profession is taking steps to self-regulate. Law schools such as Northwestern University School of Law are addressing the current status of the profession by looking to cut admissions, thereby decreasing the excess supply of lawyers (Wall Street Journal). Additionally, law schools are responding to the challenging job market by altering their curricula to increase instruction in professional skills, through clinical work, simulations and externships, according to a comprehensive ABA study.
As students have begun to heed these startling realities, there has been a significant decline in the number of LSAT takers as well as law school applicants over the last few years. The New York Times recently reported that the number of LSAT takers has fallen by close to 25% in the past two years.
Despite these somewhat discouraging trends, one must be reminded that these cyclical ups and downs are a natural part of the course of most professions. Besides, some law schools appear to be rather immune to these trends, with the University of Virginia Law School maintaining its impressive 95% job placement rate, according to the Wall Street Journal.