Another Drop in JD Apps Expected

Two out of every three law school admission officers believe that the steep three-year decline of law school applications will fail to reverse itself in the 2013-2014 admissions cycle, according to a new survey by Kaplan Test Prep. Law school applications have dropped from 602,300 in 2010 to 385,400 in 2013, their lowest level in decades, according to the Law School Admission Council, the organization that writes the LSAT.

The pessimistic view of this year’s application season follows widespread cutbacks in entering class sizes at many law schools. The Kaplan survey, for example, found that 54% of law school admissions officers report cutting their entering law school classes for 2013-2014 and 25% plan to do so again next year.  This marks two years in a row that law schools report cutting their entering class sizes; Kaplan’s 2012 survey showed 51% of schools cutting the size of their entering classes.

Kaplan said this year’s results are based on a survey of admissions officers from 127 of the nation’s 203 American Bar Association-approved law schools — including 10 of the top 25 ranked ones, as compiled by U.S. News & World Report — were polled by telephone between July and September 2013.

LAW SCHOOLS ADDING MORE CLINICAL COURSES AND PRACTICAL TRAINING

In another response to a still challenging job market, 71% of  law schools report introducing more clinical courses and practical training into their curricula, aimed at making their graduating students more “practice ready.”   This comes in the wake of an American Bar Association task force report in September that calls for sweeping changes in legal education, including greater focus on practice-readiness, more financial aid, and greater experimentation and differentiation by law schools.**

Other key findings from Kaplan Test Prep’s survey of law school admissions officers:

  • Change Needed: 78% of law school admissions officers think that “the U.S. legal education system needs to undergo significant changes to better prepare future attorneys for the changing employment landscape and legal profession.” On this point, they agree with the vast majority of pre-law students (79%) and recent law school graduates (87%) who answered the same way in June and August Kaplan surveys, respectively.

  • More Schools Accepted June LSAT Scores: Traditionally, February has been the latest LSAT administration from which law schools accepted scores for fall admissions, but a growing number of schools have been accepting June LSAT scores – likely seeking to increase applicant pools. About 78% of schools say they accepted scores from the June 2013 LSAT administration for the academic year that started in fall 2013; this was an increase over the 68% who say they accepted June 2012 LSAT scores for fall 2012 admissions.

Results from a smaller subset of law school survey respondents show that just 25% agree with President Obama’s recent statement that law schools should think about condensing their current three year programs into two-year programs for all JD candidates. The finding reflects the view  that this fundamental change may be a hard sell among law schools and is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

“Our survey finds that law schools are adapting to a challenging marketplace and realistic about how long it may take to get to a better place.  The good news is that most law schools say they are already taking measures to provide better practical training for their students,” said Jeff Thomas, director of pre-law programs, Kaplan Test Prep, in a statement. “While it’s clear there will be more changes and challenges ahead for legal education, ideally schools are looking at ways to better prepare tomorrow’s lawyers for finding a job and succeeding in their careers.”

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.