Figures show drop in first-year law school enrollment

Early review of data on first-year enrollments at American Bar Association-approved law schools reveals that 44,481 full-time and part-time students began their law school studies in the fall of 2012, a drop of nine percent from the fall of 2011.

According to the figures compiled by the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, the 2012 figure is about 15 percent below the historic high first-year enrollment of 52,488 in the fall of 2010.

The data comes from the questionnaires that all ABA-approved law schools must file annually with the ABA.

For the first time, the ABA section and the Law School Admission Council have put into place a process to verify the admissions data that schools report.

Further information — including the verified and exact number of enrolled students, undergraduate grade-point average and LSAT data — broken down by school will be released in the spring of 2013.

Approximately three fourths of 201 ABA-approved law schools experienced declines in first-year enrollment.

Ninety law schools reported declines exceeding 10 percent from last year, while fewer than 10 had increases of 10 percent or more.

Barry Currier, ABA interim consultant on legal education, cautioned that the numbers are preliminary and that the final report to be issued next spring will be more authoritative and detailed.

“Over the past year, the section has worked hard to improve its method of collecting and monitoring the data it needs to properly accredit law schools,” said  Kent Syverud, chair of the legal education section and dean at Washington University School of Law. “This effort includes, among other things, a substantial focus on admissions, bar passage, enrollment and job-placement data so that the ABA has a capacity to identify and intervene earlier where the data indicates a problem at a school.”

The ABA Fall 2012 First-Year Law School Enrollment Data follows:

• Total 1L enrollment (full-time and part-time)   44,481

• Changes in 1L enrollment, 2011 – 2012

• Schools showing increase: 48

• Schools showing no change: 4

• Schools showing decrease: 149

• Schools with 1L enrollments within +/- 5 students from previous year: 39

• Schools showing 10 percent or more increase from previous year: 8

• Schools showing 10 percent or more decrease from previous year: 90

The council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar and its accreditation committee are recognized by the U.S. Department of
Education as the national accrediting agency for programs leading to the J.D.