Is America going to face a future shortage of lawyers? First-year law school enrollment dropped this year to 39,675—some 5,000 less than last year and the lowest level since 1977, the Wall Street Journal reports. This is the third year in a row that law school numbers have dropped, a trend analysts say is down to students deciding to steer clear of an academic career that can leave them with debts of more than $150,000 and no guarantee of finding a job.
Plenty of junior lawyers were laid off during the downturn and the market for new graduates has yet to recover. "I think the collapse of the job market a few years ago was a surprise to the profession, and to law schools," says the American Bar Association's managing director of accreditation and legal education. But today's low enrollment numbers mean less competition for future law grads, leading some industry observers to suggest now may not be such a bad time to begin legal studies. (Read more law school stories.)