Deterred by fewer job prospects and rising tuition costs in an industry still very much in flux following the recession of 2008, law schools across the U.S. received significantly fewer applications. Numbers of LSAT test takers are down as well.
According to a recent article by David Diaganella in the New Jersey Law Journal, the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) “60,693 applicants submitted 440,964 law school applications as of March 30 for the academic year starting this fall.” To put that in perspective, “that’s 15.6 percent fewer applicants and 13.6 percent fewer applications than about the same time last year.”
This continues a downward trend that we saw last year as well. As Diaganella notes: “the LSAC reported 72,045 applicants turning in 510,650 applications for fall 2011 and 78,342 applicants and 561,214 applications submitted for fall 2010.”
The outlook is not much better for current law school students seeking summer clerkships. In Karen Sloan’s recent article, “Summer Associate Hiring Lackluster as New Norm Sets In” for The National Law Journal, today’s law school students face much steeper competition for summer clerkships than they did before the recession. Historic lows in summer associate class sizes and offer rates appear to have plateaued for the time being, and many firms do not see that changing.
Average summer associate classes remained at 8, matching last year’s all-time low, while median class sizes increased slightly from 4 in 2011 to 5 in 2012.
The story is not much better in terms of clerkship job offers. Says Sloan, “Summer associate offer rates ticked up modestly, from 40.6 percent in fall 2010 to 46.4 percent in 2011 for students interviewed by firms. But that figure was dwarfed by the 60 percent offer rate in 2007.” Along similar lines, she notes firms did offer more callback interviews to prospective summer associates last fall, and extended a median of 10 offers in 2012 compared to 9 in 2011. “However, that figure lags significantly behind the pre-recession median of 16 offers.”
This inherently translates into lackluster hiring of young associates for permanent positions as well. Although on the one hand recruiting on law school campuses picked up slightly, Sloan notes that most firms’ 2-year hiring projections are bleak, with little change expected through 2013 and beyond.