What New Application Trends Say About Law School

Each year LSAC releases its raw data of law school applicant data filtered down by state and school.

This year, Daniel Waldman, a contributor at US News and counselor at Stratus Admissions Counseling, analyzed data from the 2019-20 academic year and shed light on four key application trends.

“TRUMP BUMP”

In recent years, law schools have been seeing a healthy boost in applicant numbers.

According to a Kaplan Test Prep’s 2018 law school admissions officers survey, 87% report that the political climate in the US was a “significant” factor in the past cycle’s application bump.

However, looking closely at LSAC’s data, US News found that the 2019-20 application cycle actually saw a decrease in applications.

“While the number of law school applications dropped by 1.5%, the number of applicants actually rose by 3.1%,” Waldman writes. “This means that the average applicant applied to fewer schools than the year before. This could be a result of any number of things, from cost concerns and interest in a narrower legal field – and the schools that focus on it – to geography.”

GEOGRAPHY

When looking at geography data, US News found that only two areas in the US saw an increase in applications: the Northeast and South Central.

It’s important to note that the increase of applications in the Northeast does not include New England law schools.

“What’s more, even in those two regions, the larger states – New York and Texas, with increases of 3.4% and 3.7%, respectively – carry the other states in their region, most of which have shown a drop in applications akin to the rest of the country,” Waldman writes.

On the other hand, the District of Columbia saw a huge increase of 5.4% in applications while the overall region of the Midsouth saw a drop of 0.4%.

Waldman says these statistics highlight some interesting trends.

“It’s possible that the rising cost of law schools could mean that even more students are attracted to these areas, likely seeking employment in these already-competitive markets where Big Law firm salaries could help them offset their debt,” Waldman writes. “Additionally, schools in these hubs of government work, whether on the federal or regional level, could position alumni to make an impact working in the public sector.”

LSAT

Overall, US News found that law schools reported a large decrease, 18.4%, in applicants whose best LSAT score was in the 175-180 range.

“Granted, by the raw numbers, this translates into a decrease of 130 applicants,” Waldman writes. “But that also means 130 fewer applicants vying for seats in the top law schools, where the competition is fiercest. Consequently, scores just below that range are now better positioned to make a run at these seats, with the trickle-down effect making more seats available at schools ranked just below the so-called T6, an informal designation not used by U.S. News that refers to the top six law schools.”

DIVERSITY

Despite the law field being traditionally male-gendered, data shows that reality is slowly changing.

This year’s admission cycle saw a 3.7% increase in female applicants, who now make up 53.7% of prospective law students in the current admissions cycle.

“Furthermore, there’s a significant increase in Hispanic/Latino and Asian applicants, making for an ever more diverse applicant pool despite an unfortunate slight drop in black or African American applicants,” Waldman writes.

Sources: US News, LSAC, Kaplan Test Prep

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