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Fewer 1L's: Tragic or Triumphant?

Fewer 1L's: Tragic or Triumphant
[1L: First-Year Law Student]
March 11, 2013
By: Michal Brown
Staff Writer, Tampa Bay
According to the National Law Journal, the number of applicants to ABA-accredited law schools has dropped by 20% since last year. The Law School Admission Council released data showing that as of February 2013, there are 259,470 applications submitted by 36,530 applicants. Applicants are down 19.1% and applications are down 21.8% from 2012. If the trend continues, this will be the smallest applicant pool in 30 years. While the legal community is concerned with the significant decline in law school applicants for the upcoming Fall 2013 enrollment semester, law students can use this situation to their advantage.   

The major concern does not seem to be about the lack of students interested in the legal profession, but instead, the decline in funding which will accompany the decline in applicants. If the numbers continue to decrease, schools will have to consider whether or not they can afford to fund the professors and support staff that keep these institutions afloat. While an ample, well qualified, selection of professors is always a concern for law students what will become more important is using the decline in applicants to our advantage.

Fewer student leads to less competition. Students will have the upper hand because there will be fewer people to compete against when searching for employment. A decrease in the overall student population in law schools will allow professors and students to build better student-professor relationships. It is these types of personal one-on-one relationships which help to foster students into lawyers that will lead the legal community in the future. 

Fewer law school applicants also means less competition for scholarships. According to the American Bar Association the amount of scholarship money available to law students has tripled over the last 10 years. For the 2011-2012 school year, schools gave out over $1 billion in scholarships. Our chances at obtaining a scholarship are increased because the scholarship pot is larger and the pool of applicants is smaller. We all are aware of the costs of obtaining a legal education. Any opportunity to alleviate the debt is welcomed.

A shrinking law student pool may not be as tragic as you may think. Increased interaction with the legal community as well as an opportunity to offset debt through scholarships is not only a benefit to students but one to the legal community as a whole.