Law professor applications plummet as law schools raise their sights

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  • Number of entry-level law professor applicants hit a new low in August
  • Law schools increasing looking for candidates with advanced degrees, fellowships, and clerkships

(Reuters) – Has the bloom fallen off the rose of law professor life?

The number of people vying for entry-level, tenure track US law professor positions has plummeted 59% since 2010, according to data compiled by Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law Vice Dean Sarah Lawsky.

Legal educators say the mounting credentials needed to land law school teaching jobs are discouraging many would-be professors from even trying.

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As of August, just 272 aspiring professors had submitted applications to the Association of American Law School’s Faculty Appointments Register (FAR) — an online database of new faculty candidates. That’s down from a high of 662 in 2010 and 328 in 2021, according to Lawsky’s numbers, which she publishes annually on the law school-focused PrawfsBlawg. The AALS will distribute a smaller round of applications in September, but the August cohort is widely viewed as the barometer for the entry-level hiring market.

“This year’s number really is surprisingly low,” wrote University of Chicago law professor Brian Leiter on his legal blogcalling it an all-tme low and noting that it was not unusual for the first distribution of the FAR to contain about 1,000 candidates when he began teaching in the 1990s.

Leiter wrote that increased requirements to land a professor job coupled with more information about the process of getting hired has reduced the number of casual applicants entering the market with very little chance of success. Lawsky’s data supports that theory, showing that the percentage of candidates who land a teaching position has generally increased since 2017

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Law school applicant pool shrinks after blockbuster 2021

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  • Number of people applying to law school returned to normal after pandemic spike
  • Applications down 12% compared to last year

(Reuters) – The number of people applying to law school this fall declined 12% from the previous year, suggesting a surge of applicants in 2021 was an anomaly and not a new normal.

There were 62.520 applicants nationally this year, according to the latest data from the Law School Admission Council. That is down 8,592 from last year, when the applicant pool spiked 13%. It also marks a slight decline from 2020, with 864 fewer applicants.

“What we’ve seen is a rapid return — a more rapid return than anyone expected — to normality,” said law school admissions consultant Mike Spivey, who tracks applicant trends.

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Though smaller, this year’s applicant pool represents an all-time high for minorities, who comprised 43% of all applicants, said Susan Krinsky, the council’s executive vice president for operations.

Legal education insiders attributed the large 2021 applicant pool to a confluence of factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic’s negative impact on entry-level hiring among new college graduates; the 2020 presidential election prompting people to view the law as a way to serve the public and protect democracy; and the shift to a shorter, at-home version of the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) that was accompanied by a significant increase in high scores.

But many of those factors were muted in 2022, with more distance from the 2020 election and less uncertainty in the economy and entry-level hiring. The LSAT remains online and high scores are still up over historic levels, but they were down slightly from last year, according to Spivey’s analysis of

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