Enrollment Drops in Law Schools as Job Market Shrinks; Florida Coastal Has 24 Percent Fewer First-Year Students Than Last Year

Article excerpt

Byline: Staff and wire reports

Enrollment of first-year students at the nation's law schools has been falling steadily since 2010, as the shrinking availability of law firm jobs drives down the demand for a legal education.

According to new data released by the American Bar Association, enrollment nationwide hit an 11-year low of 39,674 for the 2013-14 school year, down 12 percent compared with 44,481 in 2012-13 and down 24 percent compared with 52,488 in 2010-11.

As a result, top-tier schools often find they must cut class size to maintain quality and ramp up financial aid to win over students. Many schools have had to boost recruitment budgets.

Florida Coastal School of Law was among the schools that saw a drop in first-year enrollment this year. The Jacksonville law school had about 130 fewer students accepted for 2013 compared to the previous year - a 24 percent drop.

The problem isn't that there are no available law firm jobs, said Dennis Stone, president of Florida Coastal School of Law.

It's that prospective students think there are no jobs, and that scares them away from pursuing a law degree.

"The delta is the difference between the reality and the perception of reality," he said.

While jobs in big firms are declining, there are a surplus of jobs in markets such as smaller firms. …