Practice and Professionalization


The Demand for Legal Education: The Long View

Document Type

Law Review Article

Publication Date



law school applicants, legal employment, tuition, gender, education markets, medical schools


"Changes in the number of law school applicants from year to year for the past 39 years are highly significantly correlated with changes in the national unemployment rate. The model that relates these two time series allows us to predict very closely what this year’s number of law school applicants will be, if we know last year’s number of applicants and the unemployment rate for last year and this year. While this model cannot be used for future years for which we do not yet know the unemployment rate, it does reveal that the two series have been closely related for almost four decades.

"Meanwhile, hypotheses that increasing law school tuition or fluctuations in the total population or in the rate of inflation play a significant role are not supported. Further, though it is possible that an increase in demand for legal education in general may have been driven specifically by increases in the number of women entering the applicant pool in the 1970s and early 1980s, women do not appear to drive the demand for legal education thereafter. After 2000, the gender-based demand for legal education is roughly equal, even though there have been significantly more women than men with bachelor’s degrees per place in the first-year law school class since the late 1980s. In general, the number of places in the first-year class has been robust to fluctuations in the number of law school applicants until 2010.

"The unmet demand for medical services is reflected in an increase in medical school applicants and matriculants, and the quality of the applicant pool has been strong. In contrast, the unmet demand for legal services enjoys no parallel increase in law school applicants and matriculants, and the quality of the applicant pool may be declining. It could be helpful to law schools to determine how a response to the unmet need for physicians materializes in an increasing number of matriculants, and whether similar efforts would be feasible in the context of law-school enrollment" (185).