It is common knowledge that lawyering is a cutthroat vocation — law school is no different. With that in mind, I come bearing good news! It is a lot easier to protect your neck when there are fewer people around. That time is now, young man. Or woman. There are more women in law school than men nowadays, after all.
Early applicant data suggests law school may not be an especially hot ticket in 2023. As of Oct. 13, the number of law school applicants was down 12% compared to this time last year, according to the Law School Admission Council. The council cautioned that it is still early in the application cycle and that applicant volumes can be “highly volatile” at this time of year.
But even if the pace increases, the current double-digit applicant decline signals it will be unlikely to match 2021’s frenzied cycle, when the number of people seeking to go to law school amid the COVID-19 pandemic and a sluggish job market for new college graduates spiked 13% — an unprecedented increase.
What does this mean in plain English? If you were teetering on determining if it was worth even applying to Yale this year because you only managed a 173 on your LSAT, it may still be worth it to chuck your application in with the rest of them. While Judge Ho might look you over, there are still many a door that could open with a JD from a fancy school like Yale, NYU, or where ever is currently in vogue to spend ~$100k a year on learning the rule against perpetuities from Quimbee lectures. Just look at the numbers.
“I do think this cycle will be down,” said University of Michigan senior assistant dean Sarah Zearfoss, noting that the past two years have seen high volumes of applicants and this year will likely represent a return to historical norms.
Zearfoss predicted that Michigan Law will receive between 5,000 and 5,500 applications this cycle, compared to applicant pools of more than 6,000 and 7,000 the previous two years.
What are you doing still reading this? Get to work on those applications! Or you can dedicate your money and time to a career with higher rates of job satisfaction like being a dental hygienist. No seriously. Not to be a Debbie Downer or anything, but I doubt the job market you’ll be thrown into once you get that JD will be going super good. It’s not like the hiring freezes and stealth layoffs we’re currently experiencing will be made better with more lawyers competing for positions. Who am I kidding. The only people more focused on not straying from their path despite being given good advice to stop before they end up devastated and in debt than 0Ls are career gamblers.
Practice good harm reduction and focus on your IRACing at least.
Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at email@example.com and by tweet at @WritesForRent.