Law School Enrollments Are Down, But the Legal Job Market Might Improve. Bob Donley Reports

LBN’s Bob Donley notes that the legal job market has had a rough several years lately. The American Bar Association has reported that law school enrollment in 2014 was down 37% since 2010, and the first year class could be the lowest in 40 years. There are 53 fewer law schools now than there were in 1973. In 2014, fewer than 38,000 men and women were enrolled as first year law students.

There are at least two reasons for the decline in law school enrollments, Donley reports. First, a legal education is very expensive. The average cost for tuition and fees at law schools is at least $40,000 per year. At schools like Harvard, the cost for tuition is more like $55,000 per year, and the total cost per year may be close to $85,000.

The other problem for would-be lawyers is finding work. New lawyers have encountered a shrunken job market in recent years. Professor Paul Campos of the University of Colorado’s school of law has said that “this decline is the product of long-term structural changes that are not just going away.

Prof. Campos says that one of the changes is the rise of do-it-yourself legal document websites, like legalzoom. Another change in the legal market is outsourcing. Donley says that there are a million lawyers in places like India who speak English and can effectively handle legal work. And a downloaded legal document can’t go to court to defend itself, Donley notes.

There will be a wave of baby boomer lawyers who will be retiring in the next decade. That will open up a lot of jobs. So it might be time for optimism on the part of young people who would like to become lawyers.

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