Years ago, I would have been thrilled to see a headline stating there were fewer new lawyers — more work for the existing lawyers, right? But these days I know the reasons for the drop in enrollment are a bad economy and an especially bad economy for certain legal practice areas. So this article in the Dallas Morning News did not make me feel good. Here are the opening paragraphs:
A law degree has been viewed for decades as an automatic ticket to success and wealth, even in tough economic times.
But that’s no longer the case.
A slowing job market for lawyers and ballooning tuition costs are forcing students to choose other career paths. And law school enrollment is on the decline.
The combined first-year law classes for Texas’ nine law schools have shrunk more than 10 percent in two years, according to statistics compiled by the Law School Admissions Council.
The trend is not ending, and it isn’t isolated to Texas.
Applications for the upcoming fall term are down 18 percent nationwide from a year ago. In Texas, applications are down 12 percent.
In fact, law school applications nationally are at a three-decade low, the admissions council reports.
“Legal education is facing a critical time and some big decisions,” said longtime legal educator and former Texas Tech University School of Law Dean Frank Newton. “The law degree is not the fallback guarantee that it used to be.”
Eight of the nine law schools in Texas had smaller enrollment in 2012 than in 2010.
Newton said that while business schools and engineering schools have experienced periodic bubbles over time, that hasn’t been the case for law schools before now.