(Wall Street Journal) — Student applications to law schools are down sharply this year, as college seniors grow leery of a degree that promises certain debt and uncertain job prospects. The number of law-school applicants this year is down 11.5% from a year ago to 66,876, according to the Law School Admission Council Inc. The figure, which is a tally of applications for the fall 2011 class, is the lowest since 2001 at this stage of the process. The Council estimates that the application process is 86% complete, based on historical patterns. Prospective law students increasingly are aware of the grim job market for lawyers and the challenges they would face in paying off law-school loans, college career advisers said. Corporate law firms, long the employer of choice for many graduates, have cut back on hiring in recent years, and most firms haven’t raised salaries for starting lawyers.