Enrollment of first-year students at U.S. law schools this academic year fell 11 percent to 39,675, the lowest since 1977, according to a report released by the American Bar Association.
The drop from 44,481 last year largely reflects concerns about the job market, even amid signs that legal employment conditions are beginning to turn around, said James R. Silkenat, president of the association, which was founded in 1878. Prospective law students are also concerned about the cost and growing levels of debt associated with three years of graduate school, he said.
“On balance the employment picture appears to be getting better but the applications haven’t caught up to the news yet,” said Silkenat, who is based in New York. The ABA is working on a project to find ways to lower the cost of law school, he said.
The National Association for Law Placement said in June that employment for 2012 graduates fell to 84.7 percent from 85.6 the previous year, the fifth straight decline. The employment rate, the lowest since 1994, has fallen from a 24- year high of 91.9 percent in 2007, according to the NALP report.
The ABA also found that two-thirds of law schools reported declines in first-year enrollment this academic year while 63 schools saw enrollment go up. Statistics on the ABA’s website show that the number of first-year students is the lowest level since 1977.
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