Law School Applications Back to Normal Levels

New law students are likely relieved to learn that after a record year in 2021, law school application numbers are back to average. Incoming 1Ls are less likely to face over-enrolled classes, especially since law schools have been careful this cycle to delay acceptance letters in anticipation of another high-demand year.

2021 looks like a peak, not a trend

We wrote about the large incoming class of law school last year. 2021 saw a 13% increase in applications, and many law schools ended up with larger class sizes than expected. It was unclear whether this indicated a trend or just a year-long anomaly caused by the pandemic.

According to Spivey Consulting, it looks like last year’s numbers may reflect the unique circumstances of 2021 instead of a broader trend. A recent report notes that for 2022, law school applications are 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 reduced the overall number of candidates. These include:

  • The number of deferred applications from 2020 could have artificially inflated the number of 2021 applicants.
  • Law schools have reduced 2022 class sizes to compensate for over-enrolled 2021 classes, which may have caused some law students to rethink their application in a hyper-competitive environment.
  • There may be a better job market for recent college graduates, who don’t feel the need to further their education to launch a career.

Still Seeing Increased LSAT Scores, Competitive Applicants

What hasn’t changed since last year are higher LSAT scores. The Law School Admissions Council continues to offer law students the option of taking the LSAT remotely. This less stressful environment may be the reason scores have increased in recent years. This year, nearly 20% of applicants scored 165 or higher, compared to 15% in 2019. So, although the number of applicants is down, they still face a competitive environment in their first year.

This may not be new for the candidates, who apparently hedge 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 time or more, which may reflect pressure on test takers to achieve higher scores.

LSAT Disappearance Rumors Might Be Exaggerated

The American Bar Association recently told ABA-accredited law schools that they can accept GRE scores instead of LSAT. This has led some, including us here at FindLaw, to speculate that candidates might increasingly choose to take the GRE, particularly if they are still considering the type of higher education they wish to pursue.

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

Heading to law school in the fall?

For those of you entering your 1L year, good luck. While it may be competitive, successful law students and lawyers can have a bright future ahead of them. As law firms and big corporations struggle to retain and attract legal talent, salaries and bonuses have increased for Big Law and in-house counsel.

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

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Nancy I. Romero