Pre-law students more realistic, to rely more on loans, survey finds

More law school applicants plan to rely on student loans rather than parents to pay for their education, according to a 2011 survey from Veritas Prep.
Nearly half — 49 percent — plan on taking out loans, compared to just 38 percent in 2010.

That heightened reliance on student loans may be due to less students asking their parents for help. In 2011 only nine percent of respondents said their parents would help them finance their degree, as opposed to the 14 percent expecting parental support last year.

Not surprisingly, more students this year are factoring in affordability when picking a law school. The number of applicants — 21 percent — relying on grants and scholarships remained the same.

This survey, now in its second year, monitors admissions trends and tracked the mentality of 150 college graduates and current undergraduates.

The chatter about the dismal job market for grads is clearly affecting potential law students' plans. Only 68 percent would still apply even if they knew a large number of law school graduates were unable to find jobs in their chosen fields, down from 81 percent in 2010.

The class of 2010 had the lowest employment rate since 1996, according to The National Association for Law Placement. Only 68 percent of the Class of 2010 got jobs requiring a J.D. nine months after graduation.

Applicants are also becoming more realistic: 26 percent think they will always be able to score a job if they have a J.D., a nine percent decrease from last year.

The drop in faith may also be due to recent headlines about law schools trying to make the job market for lawyers sound more appealing than it really is. Several law schools have been accused in recent months of inflating post-grad hiring numbers, despite the fact that thousands of new lawyers are facing minimal job prospects each year. 

The top issue on applicants' minds is finding a job that allows them to pay off their student loan debt, replacing last year's No. 1 issue, which was finding a desirable career path. Most want to either become a public-interest attorney (23 percent) or land at a large law firm (22 percent), the poll found.

Location continues to be the most important factor when picking a law school, but career placement rate weighed more heavily this year amongst applicants over prestige and ranking.