Applications down 15.6%, but admits could be even lower

Law school applications have continued to drop — with the number of applicants down by 15.6 percent from last year. While the numbers are not final, it appears the total number of applicants will be down from 87,500 in 2010 to less than 67,000 this year.

“A lot of time when there is an economic downturn, the numbers will go up and we saw that in 2009 and 2010,” said Wendy Margolis director of communication for LSAC, which administers the LSAT and tracks law school applicant data. “But as applicants learned about law school debt and the poor employment opportunities, the numbers have gone back down.”

This year’s applicant pool will likely be the smallest since 1996, when there were 21 fewer law schools, and 16 percent less students. Does that mean this will be one of the easiest years to get into law school?

“I don’t think people are getting into law school that they would not have before,” said Anne Levine, an admissions consultant. “[But] there is so much more wait listing. We should see more people pulled off wait lists over the next month.”

Levine said the real test will come when admittance deposits are due. She said she expects students at the very top — in terms of credentials — and at the very bottom to reconsider law school. The students at the very bottom will realize they will likely not get a job, and that it is not worth the investment. The students at the very top have other options.


“I think some people will decide not to attend law school if they don’t get into a top 10 school,” Levine said. “One client of mine is wait listed at University of Michigan. He has received scholarships to other schools in the top 25. But he will likely wait a year for Michigan instead of accepting.”

But, most students in the middle are still committed to law school. Margolis said the students who are no longer applying were not as serious about the profession.

“The people that are going to law school are the really committed people, which is not a bad thing,” Margolis said.

There are 29 law schools that have seen increases in the number of applicants. But 17 have seen a decrease of more than 30 percent, 40 with a decrease between 20 and 29 percent, and 76 with a decrease between 10 and 19 percent.

Some law schools have announced they will admit fewer students this year. But Levine expects many to get very creative with scholarships to keep credentials and numbers up. Levine said some schools have increased their wait lists. She said seven of her ten clients who applied to Emory University in Atlanta are on the wait list — an unusually high number.


She said other schools are asking students to jump through hoops as a way to determine interest. For example, University of Southern California is giving wait listed students the option to submit a video about themselves. She recommends that students jump through the hoops and reach out to alumni they know to help connect with the school.