Logical Fallacy? LSAT-Takers Show Up In Big Numbers Despite Gloomy Job Market

You might think that law school is a less appealing option these days, given all the gloomy reports of recent law grads seeking employment.  But, they’re still lining up in droves to take the LSAT.  According to a post today in the ABA Journal, “the number of would-be law students taking the Law School Admission Test this fall was the second-highest ever.  In October, there were 54,345 test-takers, a 10 percent drop from the record set last year, the blog Most Strongly Supported reports. A chart published by the Law School Admission Council has the specifics.”

The continued high number of test-takers seems to defy logic.  Slate recently reported that “the job market for lawyers is terrible – and that hits young lawyers the worst. Although the National Association for Law Placement, an industry nonprofit group, reports that employment for the class of 2009 was 88.3 percent, about a quarter of those jobs were temporary, without the salaries needed by most new lawyers to pay off crushing debts. Another 10 percent were part-time. And thousands of jobs were fellowships or grants provided by the new lawyers’ law schools.”

Given that October 2010 saw the second highest number of LSAT administrations, it seems that those interested in law school aren’t so easily dissuaded from applying.  A recent  Law School Podcaster applicant survey — administered in partnership with Veritas Prep,  and preLaw Magazine — uncovered some interesting insights behind what drives today’s law school applicants.  Notably, “81% of respondents said they would still apply to law school now even if a significant number of law school graduates were unable to find jobs in their desired fields, while 12% said they would postpone applying until placement rates improved. Only 4% said they would not apply to law school.”

You might think that all these LSAT-takers are lured by the prospects of Biglaw’s $160,000/year salaries, but that’s not necessarily so.  Our recent law school applicant survey indicates that those interested in law school have more modest expectations, with “44% of respondents indicating a reasonable desired base salary upon law school graduation to be $75,000-$100,000. Twenty-nine percent expect $100,000-$145,000, while only 11% anticipate base salaries over $145,000.”

Expectations are one thing, but reality is another.  There just may not be a whole lot of jobs out there that offer salaries in that mid-range, as the blog Most Strongly Supported aptly observes:

“Although the median legal salary between 2006 and 2009 hasn’t changed alarmingly (from $62,000 in 2006 to $85,198 in 2009), the distribution over the same years has become hugely skewed. The legal salaries clustered in the middle—around the $80,000 mark—have been sucked out like a dust pile under a Dyson DC24. Instead of a consistent apportionment, we see a steadily lengthening distribution with spikes clustering around the $50,000 and the $160,000 range.”

Then there’s this.  While there have been calls for more transparency in the way law schools report their employed-at graduation numbers, it seems would-be law students might continue to apply and attend, even with more accurate information at their disposal.  According to a recent Kaplan Test Prep survey of aspiring law students, “only 8% of respondents consider a law school’s job placement statistics to be the most important factor” in choosing which law school to attend.”

OK, if the legal job market isn’t the most important thing on the minds of law school applicants, what is?  Here’s a possibility, according to a post on the blog of admissions consultant, Veritas Prep. ”The majority of respondents [to the law school applicant survey] said they want to go to law school because they are interested in the law and the way it shapes society and business (75%), though some admitted to having more practical reasons: 35% of respondents believe they will always be able to find some kind of job if they have a JD.”

The enthusiasm for applying to law school in the current job market may seem a bit puzzling, but who knows?  It might inspire a future LSAT question.