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Law School Applications Back to Normal Levels

By Joseph Fawbush, Esq. on August 08, 2022 12:41 PM

Incoming law school students are likely relieved to hear that after a record-breaking 2021, the number of law school applications has returned to the mean. Incoming 1Ls are less likely to face overenrolled classes, particularly considering that law schools were careful this cycle to delay acceptance letters in anticipation of another high-application year.

2021 Looks Like a Spike, Not a Trend

We wrote about the large incoming law school class last year. 2021 saw a 13% increase in applications, and many law schools ended up with a larger-than-expected class size. It wasn't clear if that indicated a trend or was simply a one-year anomaly brought on by the pandemic.

According to Spivey Consulting, it appears last year's numbers may reflect the unique circumstances of 2021 instead of any larger trend. A recent report notes that for 2022, law school applications were down slightly even from 2020. This year, 62,589 hopeful future lawyers applied to accredited law schools. In 2020, there were 62,814.

In addition to not being an election year, a number of factors could have lowered the total applicant pool. These include:

  • The number of deferred applications from 2020 could have artificially inflated the number of 2021 applicants.
  • Law schools have lowered 2022 class sizes to make up for overenrolled 2021 classes, perhaps leading some law students to rethink applying in a hyper-competitive environment.
  • There may be a better labor market for recent college grads, who do not feel the need for further education to get started on a career.

Still Seeing Increased LSAT Scores, Competitive Applicants

What hasn't changed from last year are higher LSAT scores. The Law School Admissions Council still offers law student hopefuls the option of taking the LSAT remotely. This lower-stress environment may be why the last several years have seen increased scores. This year, almost 20% of test takers had a score of 165 or more, compared to 15% in 2019. So while the number of applicants is down, they are still facing a competitive first-year environment.

That may not be news to applicants, who are apparently hedging their bets more than in previous years. According to Spivey Consulting, the average law school applicant applied to 6.78 schools on average, more than any of the previous four years. And half of all test takers were taking it for the second or subsequent time, which could reflect the pressure on applicants to get higher scores.

Rumors of LSATs Demise May Be Exaggerated

The American Bar Association recently told ABA-Accredited law schools they could accept GRE scores in lieu of the LSAT. This led some, including us here at FindLaw, to speculate that applicants may increasingly choose to take the GRE, particularly if they are still considering the type of graduate education they want to pursue.

That isn't reflected in the 2022 applicant pool, however. Only about 5% of applicants relied solely on the GRE or another non-LSAT test in their applications. While it is not clear that relying on the GRE harmed applicants in any way, law student hopefuls are apparently deciding to play it safe and take the LSAT.

Heading to Law School in the Fall?

For those of you heading into your 1L year, good luck. While it may be competitive, successful law students and lawyers may have a bright future ahead. As law firms and top companies fight to retain and attract legal talent, pay and bonuses have increased for Big Law and in-house counsel.

Meanwhile, please check out our free resources for law students to help you prepare for this fall.

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