A Closer Inspection Of The Trump Bump

Previous studies indicated the existence of a “Trump Bump” in which more people planned to go to law school as a reaction to the 2016 presidential election. A new survey from Kaplan Test Prep further reveals pre-law students’ political motives for applying to law school.

“We’ve seen significant jumps in both LSAT takers and law school applications over the past admissions cycle, which has fueled speculation about how much impact, if any, the 2016 election and subsequent political climate has had on this year’s law school admissions landscape. We now have an answer: It’s significant. The bump is real,” said Jeff Thomas, executive director of pre-law programs, Kaplan Test Prep.

Law school has long been at the epicenter of politics, Thomas explained. For example, 38 percent of House members and 55 percent of senators have law degrees. But for politically charged undergrads, law school may not be the shortcut to political greatness.

“While there are many good reasons for attending law school, our advice remains constant: Be introspective about your reasons for applying, and understand exactly how a law degree is necessary to achieve your career goals," Thomas said.

LSAT registrations in 2018 are already up double digits from 2017, according the Law School Admission Council’s website. The number of LSAT test takers in December 2017 was up 27.9 percent over the previous year.

So, why are more people taking the LSAT? The Kaplan survey provides some insight. Here is what a few of the survey respondents had to say:


“The election gave me a litmus test for how divided our country will be for the next few years and how I want to remedy that. The country needs level headed leaders and through law school, I believe that I can become one of them.”


“I work with refugees and new government policies have directly impacted and impeded my ability to do my job. I am interested in a law degree in order to have a new way to fight for human rights and defend those in need.”


“I decided to go to law school BECAUSE of the 2016 election. Somebody has to hold these politicians accountable, and it's clearly not anyone in office right now. Also, if Hillary isn't gonna be the first female president, then it's going to be me.”


Others were already planning to apply to law school before the 2016 elections, but reported that the election was validated their reasoning and that politics is still on their minds:


“I had already planned to attend law school previous to the 2016 election. President Trump's support of the separation of powers, and his administration's commitment to the rule of law have only further inspired me to pursue a career in the field of law.”


“I wanted to be a lawyer and attend law school before the 2016 election, but the results solidified to me why it was so important to gain a legal education. Prior to that election, I had never considered being a politician; however, I am now considering pursuing a career in politics after my legal education.” 


“Although I've always had an interest in pursuing a legal education, I felt motivated to actually start the process. This was due to the strong desire to be part of the change, instead of waiting for changes to occur.”


Although some aspiring law students were comfortable sharing their political opinions freely in the survey, most stated that they are not comfortable sharing their views on a law school application. Just 28 percent say they are likely to discuss their political views in their law school admissions personal statements. 

“Whether you’re a resister, persister, or somewhere in between, spouting your political opinions with no larger goal may alienate admissions officers who don’t agree with you or who think you didn’t use your personal statement wisely. It can show poor judgment,” Thomas. said “Only focus on politics if you can do a good job of weaving together your personal narrative and career ambitions. For instance, if you want to go into immigration law, talk about your canvassing job for an advocacy group. Otherwise, be compelling in your statements, but in a less risky way.”

The survey results are based on the results of a Kaplan Test Prep e-survey conducted in December 2017 and February 2018 of 537 pre-law students who took a Kaplan LSAT course.


Related articles:

Trump Bump may be the reason for more LSAT takers

Law School Application Trends You Need To Know About

Three reasons why more people may be taking the LSAT


Tyler Roberts is an editor for The National Jurist. You can follow him on Twitter at @wtyelerroberts