It seems that at least some prospective law students are getting the message.
As demonstrated by the LSAC’s Current Volume Summary, there has been a large decline this year in both the general number of applicants, and in the number of applicants with high LSAT scores. However, this data doesn’t reveal who are the potential applicants who have refrained from applying.
Matt Leichter addresses this question in The Am Law Daily, and suggests that “today’s applicants are disproportionately older.” For the reasoning behind his deduction, read his post in depth. But, here’s his bottom line: “First, the people who are not applying to law school are probably young people with mediocre LSAT scores who would have sent out only a handful of applications, mostly to regional schools. […] Overall, this suggests that the ’right’ people—the stereotypical lemmings who think they’ll earn overflowing cash sacks as lawyers—are getting the message, contrary to what the media coverage would have us believe.” He also posits that “the 20 percent of the applicant pool that’s over 29 and whose median LSAT score is under 150 (10 percent of all applicants) has probably declined less than other age groups.” He thus notes that the “message” wasn’t really delivered or received by the older applicants, who are still applying as before.
And despite the general drop in applications, employment projections reveal that there will be an estimated 212,000 new jobs over 10 years, with about 44,000 lawyers graduating from ABA law schools each year. Thus, “even if law schools start reducing their nominal tuition, legal education will still not be worth the effort for many prospective students.”
Potential applicants from all age groups: pay attention, and make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.