Law school application spike will lead to increased competition

Yale law school students attend their commencement ceremony. Law schools across the nation are expecting an increase of applicants this year, according to a 2015 survey by Kaplan Test Prep. (Flickr/Jens Schott Knudsen)

Pre-law students at the University of Connecticut may be faced with challenges in applying to law school because of a predicted spike in applications in coming years, according to Kaplan Test Prep’s 2015 survey of admissions officers from 120 law schools across the country. 

Despite the spike, Jeff Thomas, executive director of pre-law programs for Kaplan Test Prep and manager of the company’s LSAT business, said it's still a good time to go to law school, but prospective students should be aware of the caveats.

The number of law school applicants has been a statistical rollercoaster for about six years, but this year Kaplan Test Prep's 2015 survey showed that almost nine in 10 law school admissions advisers predict an increase in applicants, largely based on an influx of LSAT takers.

The last time admissions officers saw a spike like this was in 2009. “The reason we were seeing so many applicants was because of the recession,” Thomas said. “When the recession first hit, college graduates were having trouble getting a job,” and so they opted to go to law school, causing a dramatic influx of applicants, Thomas said.

They were bright applicants and therefore, law schools admitted and graduated more, but many of these students were unable to find a job after graduation, Thomas said. Thus, the rollercoaster took a downward turn and less students applied to law school. 

“282 applicants applied to law school in 2009. 163 applied in 2010,” Thomas said. “That’s a 40 percent decrease.” 

But this year, that trend is reversed.

Recent data shows that many more students took the LSAT this year than in past years, Thomas said. This indicated a potential spike in law school applicants, whose competitiveness relies partly on their LSAT scores. 

Third-semester political science major Justin Bell believes the times have changed. Now, a law degree will aid the job search, he said. 

“I think more people will apply to law school because we’re entering a time where having a higher level degree is the only way to stand above the crowd of other job applicants in a competitive market,” Bell said. 

UConn is in an especially convenient position for post-law school jobs as area with a high demand for attorneys, said Thomas. He called the northeast corridor a sweet spot located between big cities offering many jobs in law, but also said that in recent years, legal jobs have been increasing in rural areas as well. 

“It would be very helpful to go to law school in the jurisdiction where you plan to practice law,” Thomas said. “This way, students can build connections to jumpstart their careers.” 

Yet with an increasingly competitive applicant pool, students should focus on GPA and classes to determine what school or region they end up in.

Law school applicants are not preferred based on the school they go to, Thomas said, but on their standing within that school. It’s about students’ strengths as UConn applicants.  

“The GPA and classes you take at your school is what matters, not the school itself,” Thomas said. 

Although Bell, a pre-law student, hasn’t taken the LSAT yet, he is improving his analytic skills by taking several logic courses.

“In terms of the job market, I’m not worried,” Bell said, “I think it all depends on the field of law you choose to specialize in and there’s no shortage of people needing legal help in this day and age.” 

According to Kaplan’s 2014 survey of over 200 law schools accredited by the American Bar Association, 46 percent said they were confident they would see an increase in applicants, while 23 percent said their class sizes were likely to shrink the following year. 

“Make sure you really want to go to law school," Thomas said. "Because we are going to see more applicants.” 


Diler Haji is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus and can be reached via email at diler.haji@uconn.edu.