Law School Admissions Return to Pre-Pandemic Levels as Applicant Numbers Stabilize

After a year of unprecedented growth in law school applications due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the frenzy appears to have subsided. Recent data from the Law School Admission Council reveals that the number of people applying to law school has declined for the second consecutive year, indicating that the surge in applicants witnessed in 2021 was an aberration. As of Thursday, law school applicants were down by 2.4% compared to the previous year, and the national applicant pool is expected to be slightly smaller than in 2021, which already saw a 12% decrease.

Susan Krinsky, the executive vice president for operations at the Law School Admission Council, characterized this decline as a “return to normalcy,” emphasizing that it aligns with application trends observed over the past five years, except for the anomaly in 2021. During that period, the number of applicants remained relatively stable, with an annual range of 57,000 to 64,000 individuals applying to law schools.

While the overall applicant numbers may not deviate significantly, there is a possibility of a minor increase later this month. This potential bump could be attributed to the release of scores from the June 9 administration of the Law School Admission Test. Over 3,400 more individuals are registered to take the test this year compared to the previous year. Although most of these test takers are likely individuals who have already applied for the fall and aim to improve their financial aid offers, or those who are proactively preparing for the next application cycle, a small portion may constitute late applicants for the fall term.

Experts in the legal industry attribute the remarkable surge in law school applications witnessed in 2021 to a combination of factors, including the disruption of the entry-level job market for college graduates due to the pandemic, nationwide protests against racial inequality triggered by the tragic murder of George Floyd, and the political climate during Donald Trump’s presidency. However, in 2022, applicants sharply decreased, indicating a return to historical norms for law school admissions.

Notably, the applicant pool continues to exhibit growing diversity, with 46.5% of applicants identifying as people of color, a slight increase from just over 45% in the previous year, according to Susan Krinsky. Moreover, there has been a slight uptick in the number of applicants with LSAT scores ranging from 170 to 180, the highest possible range. This suggests that competition remains fierce for admission into the most prestigious law schools, while the applicant pool below this score range has experienced a more forgiving cycle, notes law school admission consultant Mike Spivey.

As law school admissions return to pre-pandemic levels, the fluctuations in applicant numbers serve as a reminder of the evolving dynamics within legal education. The future landscape of legal professionals is likely to be shaped by the diverse backgrounds of applicants and the ongoing pursuit of excellence by both aspiring law students and esteemed institutions.

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