How competitive will the 2022 law school admission cycle be? | Information on law admissions

Welcome to the final installment of Law Admissions Questions and Answers, a feature that provides law school admissions advice to readers who send in inquiries. If you have a question about law school admissions, email us for a chance to be featured in a future article.

I’ve heard that last year the law school admission cycle was unprecedented in its competitiveness. Do you have any further updates on the number of applications for this year and how you anticipate the 2022 cycle? – SM

It is true that last year’s admissions cycle was surprisingly competitive, flooding many law schools with more applicants than they could handle.

According to statistics from the Law School Admission Council, or LSAC, nearly 71,000 people applied to law school for the 2021 enrollment year, about 13% more than the previous year. These applicants tended to have higher grades and LSAT scores than in previous years, in part because the pandemic gave them more time to study.

The total number of applications submitted increased by around 27%, showing that applicants have covered their bets by applying to more schools in response to increased competition.

While many applicants may not have lived up to their hopes, most law schools have increased their class sizes to partially offset the influx. The total number of freshmen enrolled in law school increased by more than 10% from 2020 to 2021.

Put the last cycle in perspective

Fluctuations in law school applications frequently occur due to the economy, political events, demographic shifts, and other factors. Historical data shows that the number of applicants to American Bar Association-accredited law schools peaked at over 100,000 in 2004 before gradually declining to less than 55,000 applicants in 2015, although a methodological change there was. is five years old means the data is not directly comparable to more recent figures.

So, it’s safe to say that last year’s admission cycle was the most competitive of the decade, although far from unprecedented. Much like previous peaks, the flow of applicants from last year is likely to ebb. The question is when.

Many of the forces behind this increase appear fleeting, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic instability, widespread social justice protests and a controversial election that put lawyers in the spotlight. With unemployment now relatively low, many potential law school applicants may pursue other opportunities rather than facing another potentially difficult admission cycle.

As of mid-December 2021, LSAC data shows that the number of applicants is down 4.6% from last year, and the total number of applications submitted is down 3.6%. Typically, over 40% of requests are open at this point, so it would be surprising if this gap were to close. On the contrary, more applicants will likely submit their applications earlier this cycle to get a head start after last year’s rush.

Likewise, LSAC data on LSAT enrollment shows that the total number of applicants in August, October and November of this year is slightly lower than in the same months in 2020.

Implications for current and future candidates

Current law school applicants may be relieved to learn that this year’s cycle promises to be a little less crowded than last year. Unfortunately, they can scramble for fewer seats.

Since last year’s oversaturated pool of applicants surprised many law school admissions offices, some law schools found themselves oversubscribed, meaning they encouraged or even prompted applicants to defer their admission. Other candidates have chosen to postpone due to the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. These deferred applicants leave less room for law schools to admit new students.

This problem is unlikely to persist in the next cycle, as law schools are now better prepared. Demand will likely continue to decline in the next cycle in the absence of another crisis.

As rumor spreads about the increased competitiveness of law school admissions, potential applicants will think twice. The long-term trends that drove claims down from 2004 to 2015 appear unlikely to be completely reversed. Applicants are now better informed about the cost and benefits of law school than they were two decades ago.

Of course, recent events have shown the dangers of trying to predict the future. Rather than obsessing over admissions trends, aspiring lawyers had better get ahead of the game by creating a solid app.


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Nancy I. Romero