There is seemingly a disconnect between the real world and law school admissions offices around the country. Since 2010, law schools admissions have decreased 37%. Earlier this year, the ABA predicted the class of 2014 would be the smallest class of 1Ls in 40 years. Yet, according to a recent Kaplan survey, nearly half of admissions offices at ABA accredited schools across the country expect to see an increase in applicants for the next cycle.
Here’s something even crazier. Despite applications dropping by 8% this past cycle, 46% of staff members from law schools across the country expected applications to increase. The number was 34% in 2013. Kaplan seems to think some of the optimism comes from fewer law schools reporting cutting seats in incoming classes. In 2012, when Kaplan first started measuring the stat, 54% of law schools reported cutting class seats available. This year the number was 47%.
Jeff Thomas, the executive director of pre-law programs at Kaplan Test Prep, contends that while law schools seem to be more optimistic, “it’d be premature to celebrate.” Thomas went on to say it will take a significant increase in the job market to change the number of applicants coming to law schools.
The optimism could also stem from innovations and changes in curriculum. Many law schools are beginning to change curriculum to make their grads more competitive in the downtrodden legal employment marketplace. Law schools have also been reducing tuition in an effort to alleviate falling applications.
Thomas noted that despite law school applications dropping, law school applicants shouldn’t expect lower standards from admissions offices. “Competitive schools generally prefer to enroll fewer students over enrolling an increased number of less-qualified students,” says Thomas.
At this point, and inkling of positive news surrounding law school is a necessary and appreciated albeit rare occurrence.
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