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December 14 (Reuters) – When it comes to law school admissions, 2021 was one of the records.
The number of applicants vying for first-year law students this fall jumped 13%, the largest year-over-year increase since 2002. That translated into an additional 12% of 1L on the campus.
Law school admissions test scores also increased, with more than double the number of applicants in the highest band from 175 to 180. As a result, the median LSAT score among new classes of almost all Law schools grew, with some unheard of three-point jumps.
Andy Cornblatt, dean of admissions at Georgetown University Law Center, said the 2021 cycle was a “perfect storm” from the pandemic and current events leading people to apply to law school.
âYou had George Floyd; an economy that seemed fragile at best; a presidential election like no other; RBG dying; and Jan. 6, âsaid Cornblatt. “Add all of these things together, it all made it seem like the law was where the action was.”
The pandemic has also interrupted the career beginnings of many, said Kellye Testy, president of the Law School Admission Council, which has prompted more people to apply to law school. The blockages also meant they had more time at home to study for LSAT and prepare their applications, she added.
âThere were a lot of people who could have done some interesting study abroad, or Teach for America, or had a gap year in Italy,â she said. “But they couldn’t do any of this because of the pandemic, so it seemed better to apply now.”
Some law schools have struggled to cope with the influx of applicants, ending up with much larger freshman classes than expected. The increased diversity was a welcome by-product of the larger pool of applicants, with a number of elite law schools admitting their most diverse classes ever.
But it was an extremely competitive and frustrating cycle for aspiring lawyers, said Dave Killoran, CEO of preparation firm LSAT PowerScore. Some were excluded from schools they would be admitted to another year, he noted, as schools took longer than usual to make decisions, another source of stress for applicants.
âThe last cycle was the worst I can remember in 30 years,â Killoran said. “The expectations were not in line with what really happened.”
The University of Michigan Law School saw a 42% increase in graduate applications and hired an additional first reader to help them navigate them all, said Senior Associate Dean Sarah Zearfoss. She also spent more than a few weekends reading the applications as there were too many to process during the work week.
âIt was definitely tough,â Zearfoss said. âThe volume was beyond anything we had seen before. And the quality of the candidates was extremely high in all areas.
Demand for law schools is already cooling amid a relatively strong economy and declining pandemic lockdowns. In mid-December, the total number of people wishing to enter law school in fall 2022 was down 5% from the same period a year ago. Admissions officials predict that the final pool of applicants for the current cycle will decline by 5% to 13% compared to 2021.
âOn a scale of one to 10, last year was a 10,â Killoran said. “This year looks like an 8 or higher.”
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Reporting by Karen Sloan
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