The New York Times reports an almost 25% decline in the number of LSAT tests taken in the last two years. The Times reports:
The decline reflects a spreading view that the legal market in the United States is in terrible shape and will have a hard time absorbing the roughly 45,000 students who are expected to graduate from law school in each of the next three years. And the problem may be deep and systemic.
Many lawyers and law professors have argued in recent years that the legal market will either stagnate or shrink as technology allows more low-end legal work to be handled overseas, and as corporations demand more cost-efficient fee arrangements from their firms.
That argument, and news that so many new lawyers are struggling with immense debt, is changing the way law school is perceived by undergrads. Word is getting through that law school is no longer a safe place to sit out an economic downturn — an article of faith for years — and that strong grades at an above-average school no longer guarantees a six-figure law firm job.
I am far from sure that this is a sad or bad thing. Too many folks have been going to law school because they see it as a ticket to the $$$ than because they are attracted to an access vision. Maybe if law schools looked for and admitted people driven to the law by a sense of the possibility of justice, more of them would find a way to serve, and we’d be better off all round.
Let’s encourage law schools to assess this at admission, and to provide incubators and other tools to help their graduates made the transition to a justice practice, rather than a business one. Something for access to justice commissions to think about!