Pre-Law Students More Politically Inclined

by Naomi Nishihara on

Pre-law students are significantly more interested in politics today than they were four years ago, according to a new Kaplan Test Prep survey.

After each of the last three presidential elections, Kaplan has surveyed LSAT students on whether they would consider running for political office. This year, 53% said they would, up from 38% in 2012. Kaplan e-surveyed 514 LSAT students between December 2016 and February 2017.

“Given how divisive the election season was and how charged the political climate is now, we are not surprised by how motivated pre-law students are about running for office and making a difference firsthand,” says Jeff Thomas, executive director of pre-law programs at Kaplan. “The real test will be to see if this enthusiasm persists.”

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Jeff Thomas, executive director of pre-law programs at Kaplan

The first time Kaplan surveyed students on this issue was in 2009, shortly after President Obama was elected for his first term in office. That year, 54% said they would consider running. But by the time they asked the question again four years later, the number had dropped considerably. “It will be interesting to see where we stand in a couple of years,” Thomas says.

Political interest among pre-law students is nothing new. Approximately 35% of all current members of Congress are lawyers, making it the most common profession among federal legislators; about half of U.S. governors graduated from law school, as well.

“There’s a centuries-old tradition of attorneys going into politics, because as a civil society we are a nation of laws,” Thomas says. “And those most passionate about setting policy are those who know the law best. What our survey tells us is that law school will continue to be a farm team of tomorrow’s candidates for office, from the federal level to the local school board.”

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Kaplan also surveyed students on whether they think discussion of political beliefs is appropriate during the law school admissions process, and a plurality indicated that it is not: 46% said it’s better to avoid discussing politics, 16% said it was not better to avoid it, 29% said it depends, and 10% said they don’t know.

However, in a separate survey in 2016, Kaplan found that law school admissions officers themselves don’t necessarily think it’s a bad idea to broach topical political issues. Ninety-eight of the 205 American Bar Association-accredited law schools were polled by telephone, and 42% disagreed with the statement, “It would be better for applicants to not discuss their political beliefs in their personal statement.” Twenty-eight percent said politics should be avoided.

“We think the recent election showed many pre-law students of all political persuasions how important it is to stay involved and stand up for what you believe in,” Thomas says. “When it comes to expressing political beliefs in your law personal statement, we advise applicants to do it only when you can do a good job of weaving together your personal narrative and career goals.”

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