October LSAT numbers plummet, indicating weak job market for lawyers

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The Law School Admission Council administered substantially fewer Law School Admission Tests in October than it did 12 months ago.

The number of LSATs administered in October 2012 plunged 16.4 percent from October 2011. Test takers have been dwindling since 2010, and the drop in takers was equally sharp in 2011.

This year 37,780 prospective attorneys took the exam, the fewest since 1999, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The October testing date traditionally has the highest volume of test takers, though the LSAT is offered four times each year. The LSAT is required for admission to every law school approved by the American Bar Association.

Not surprisingly, a decline in law school applications has accompanied the lower volume of LSAT test-takers. Law schools have responded by shrinking their enrollment numbers.

More than half of all law schools surveyed by Kaplan, Inc., a national test preparation firm, reported a reduction in the size of their entering classes. More than 60 percent cited the poor job market for lawyers as the reason.

In the past, recessions and economic malaise have been good news for law schools, as recent college graduates picked up law degrees while waiting out bleak job markets. Such was the case at the beginning of the most recent economic downturn. The number of LSATs administered increased six percent in 2008 and 13 percent in 2009.

The New York Times reported that winning admission to law schools — perhaps even elite schools — could be easier now than it has been in decades, depending on how many first-year students they decide to admit.

On the other hand, a recent academic paper suggests that the legal job market has been saturated for many years, arguably since as early as the 1970s. The paper estimates that some 200,000 to 600,000 of the 1.4 million law school graduates during the last 40 years are not working as attorneys.

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