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Law school applications and enrollment took a nosedive with the 2008 crash and fell for a decade after. That trend has officially reversed, with the last two years seeing a spike in applications. Law schools have thus been able to be more selective about their incoming classes.
According to Spivey Consulting, a firm that helps law schools with their admissions processes, the median LSAT score at many law schools increased for the class matriculating this fall. Even top law schools saw an increase in median LSAT score. For example, the incoming class at Yale Law had a median LSAT score of 176, while a year ago it was 173. The acceptance rate at Yale also fell to 4%, down significantly from last year's 7%. Median college GPA has also increased across law schools.
The number of law school applications for classes starting in the fall of 2021 increased by 13%—the largest increase since the turn of the century. For this cycle, 71,048 people applied to accredited law schools, up from 62,964 at this point in 2020. According to the Law School Survey Council, over half of all accredited law schools are overenrolled this year.
As with other students reluctant to engage in virtual class, aspiring lawyers may have delayed their applications in 2020 to avoid remote learning. What we're seeing could thus be partly the result of many deferred applications from the previous year.
It is not clear that the only reason for increased LSAT scores is the number of applicants. The "LSAT Flex" administered over 2020 was shorter, with only three sections instead of five. Equally importantly, law students could take the test remotely. The comfort and lowered stress of taking the LSAT at home may have led to a modest increase in scores. It should be noted that the Law School Admissions Council plans to return to its former section models this fall.
In addition to practical considerations shaped by COVID, there may be several factors that could be responsible for the increase in applications.
Considering the renewed threat from the Delta COVID variant, already over-enrolled 1L classes, and continued focus on social justice and inequality, there is a good chance that applications will continue to rise next fall. Students who have deferred for a year may apply again.
For law schools, the signs are good for continued interest in attendance. We may see increased applications for years to come. Meanwhile, incoming law students will face one of the most competitive school environments in years.
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