Fewer takers for the law school test

The Law School Admission Test had 16 percent fewer takers this academic year, as undergrads reassess whether law school is the safe bet it used to be.

Kai Ryssdal: Used to be that if you didn't know what you were going to do when you got out of college, you went to law school. Safe, reliable, pretty much guaranteed employment. Sadly, legal services aren't recession-proof -- law firms aren't hiring like they used to for lack of business, which means there are fewer people are applying to law school, which is affecting the businesses that prep those would-be Supreme Court justices.

Marketplace's Sally Herships has more.


Sally Herships: The Law School Admission Test, the LSAT, is losing popularitySixteen percent fewer legal hopefuls took the test this academic year than last.

Elie Mystal: And in raw numbers, fewer people will be taking the LSAT this year than in any year in the past decade.  

Elie Mystal went to Harvard Law, and he’s editor at legal industry blog Above the Law.

Mystal: If the number of people taking the LSAT is declining, that means the number of people going to law school must needs also go down.

Therefore, the number of people preparing for the LSAT will also drop. Roger Israni is director of Testmasters, a test prep company. He says he’s not seeing a big drop in enrollments, but instead the company is getting a different kind of student.

Roger Israni: In the past it’s been like, well I don’t know what I want to do with my life, I think I’ll go to law school.   

But law school is no longer a safe fallback.

Israni: Those that are a little bit more wishy-washy, I’m thinking about law school, but I’m also thinking about business school and maybe out getting my Ph.D. It seems that there are fewer of those folks.

Now, Israni says only diehard legal eagle wannabes are enrolling. Testmasters and test prep company Kaplan both say cheaper options, like online classes are growing in popularity.

Elie Mystal says while there are fewer high-paying legal jobs, tuition for law school has gone up and up.

Mystal: That’s starting to have an effect on people who realize that maybe taking out $100,000 to go to school for three years isn’t the smartest idea in terms of their financial security and future.

But Mystal says, the drop in students taking the LSAT could also be a positive indicator of more jobs and less need to turn to graduate school.

In New York, I’m Sally Herships for Marketplace.

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Sally Herships is a regular contributor to Marketplace.

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