Another sign that law isn’t quite the select destination it once was: Columbia Law School, the nation’s No. 4 according to U.S. News and World Report, reports that applications have dropped by 27 percent since 2008, and by 12 percent since last year.

Despite that downward trend, David Schizer, dean at Columbia Law, tells NLJ affiliate New York Law Journal, ” We are incredibly spoiled [by the caliber of applicants],” adding that “there are many, many more people who would do well here than we can admit.”

Maybe so, but you have to wonder what it means when a top-drawer law school is seeing such a spectacular decline in applications. New York Law Journal reports that the other 14 law schools in New York are experiencing varying rates of application drop, with the exception of Cornell Law School, which claims a 4 percent increase since 2008.

Compared with Columbia, its competitor New York University School of Law fared a bit ­better — its applications dropped by 19 percent since 2008 and 10 percent since last year.

The law schools with the sharpest drops were ones with low rankings, which have seen application declines of more than 40 percent since 2008. But even a perfectly respectable mid tier school like Fordham University School of Law saw applications drop by 38 percent since 2008.

Any way you look at it, it’s much easier to squeeze into a “reach” law school than ever before. So if you can’t get yourself into a decently ranked law school (let’s say the top 50 or so), you might think twice about whether you’re cut out for this law racket in the first place.

In related news, the National Jurist has released its list of the private and public law schools that offer the best value. The publication weighed each law school’s tuition, typical student debt and the location’s cost of living, along with data about employment and bar passage rates. Here are the top 10:

  1. University of Alabama School of Law
  2. University of Arkansas School of Law
  3. Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center
  4. University of Nebraska College of Law
  5. University of South Dakota School of Law
  6. Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School
  7. University of Kentucky College of Law
  8. Georgia State University College of Law
  9. Florida State University College of Law
  10. College of William and Mary Marshall-Wythe School of Law

You might notice that Brigham Young, No. 6 on this list, was No. 1 on the National Jurist’s private law school list, released in September. So any way you look at it, BYU seems to deliver remarkable value.

Vivia Chen is chief blogger for The Careerist. Updates appear daily at thecareerist.typepad.com. She can be contacted at vchen@alm.com.