First-year J.D. enrollment remains flat

No other year had a bigger wildcard when it came to law school enrollment than 2020. Given COVID-19, law schools didn’t know just how many admitted students might defer and wait a year. 

Some schools were online; some offered hybrid options and those that did have in-person classes had serious safety measure in place. So it was not the most inviting time to go to law school. Who wants to go to Harvard from your basement? 

But recently released American Bar Association (ABA) figures show first-year enrollment only fell slightly in 2020 from 2019. The most recent first-year class totaled 38,202 compared to 32,283 the year before.  

And overall J.D. enrollment actually rose. For 2020, it was at 114,520, up from the 112,882 in 2019. 

Non-J.D. enrollment jumped even more significantly. Those are students who getting their LL.M. degrees or masters. Their numbers rose 7.4% and totaled 21,292. That could be explained by the increasing number of schools that offer such programs online now. Indeed, that jump happened even though COVID-19 affected the ability of many foreign students to enroll in LL.M. programs in 2020. 

In all, 111 schools were either level or saw increases in first-year J.D. enrollment. Eighty-six saw drops. 

Some schools reported they had the largest classes in years. Gonzaga University School of Law had an entering class of 155 students, which is the largest for the Spokane, Wash., school since 2011.

Other schools reported that the Class of 2023 was one of its strongest in years. The University of Miami School of Law welcomed 379 students this past fall, boasting the highest average LSAT and GPA scores in at least three decades, the school reported.  

Northeastern University School of Law noted how its Class of 2023 was the strongest in the school’s history.  The median LSAT is 162 and the median GPA is 3.65. The Boston school dates back to 1898.

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