Law School Admissions

For First Time Since 2010, Number of First-Year Law Students Has Increased Meaningfully

New student enrollment at law schools is up 2.9 percent from 2017, according to ABA data released last Friday. The number of first-year law matriculants at 122 schools is the same or higher than last year, while only 81 reported decreased class size. Total law school enrollment is up 1.2 percent from 2017, and enrollment in J.D. related programs, such as LLM, masters, or certificate programs, also increased by 8.2 percent year-over-year.

The increased enrollment is not surprising given the increase in law school applications during the 2017 application cycle, 8 percent, which was the first significant increase in law school applications since 2010. While some schools have ended up with significantly larger numbers of admitted students, others have become more selective. Within the top 25 schools, according to the U.S. News and World Report 2019 Rankings, 24 saw an increase in applications and all but two reported lower acceptance rates for applicants compared to 2017. On average, the acceptance rate for the top 25 was 21.4 percent in 2018 compared to 24.5 percent in 2017. Despite the increased selectivity, most of the top 25 schools did have slightly larger first-year classes than they did the previous year, with increases ranging between 1 and 157 students.

A article predicts, based on early indicators, that the application pool will continue to grow for the 2019 matriculating class. LSAT numbers in June and July 2018 were up 30 percent compared to 2017; a similar uptick in LSAT-takers in the summer of 2017 preceded the higher application numbers seen this year.

Find data from all ABA accredited schools here:

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Two Additional Law Schools to Accept GRE as Alternative to LSAT

Two additional law schools, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law and Georgetown University Law Center, have joined Harvard Law School and University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law in accepting the GRE for law school admissions. Georgetown will accept the GRE score as an alternative for the LSAT, for those wishing to matriculate in 2018, while Northwestern will accept the scores for students applying to the 2019 entering class.

Both schools conducted studies to determine the ability of the GRE to predict a student’s success within law school. Northwestern’s study was performed in conjunction with ETS, the administrator for the GRE, and found the GRE to be a strong predictor of success for first year Northwestern law students. Georgetown ran an independent study analyzing over ten-years of students’ academic performance and test scores and found that the GRE scores were equal to LSAT scores as predictors of academic success within the Law School.

The four schools that have opened their admissions process to include the GRE did so in an effort to diversify the applicant pool, as well as to reflect the evolving and multi-disciplinary nature of law. “Georgetown Law is committed to attracting the best and the brightest students of all backgrounds,” said Dean William M. Treanor. “We believe this change will make the admissions process more accessible to students who have great potential to make a mark here at Georgetown Law and in successful legal careers, but who might find the LSAT to be a barrier for whatever reason.”

The GRE is offered more frequently throughout the year and in numerous locations, and is often taken by students considering other graduate level educational options. By accepting the GRE, these law schools are helping to alleviate the financial burden of taking multiple tests for students thinking about different paths. Additionally, it may help to recruit students from “non-typical” law school backgrounds, including in-demand STEM students, international students, as well as those from a wider range of socio-economic backgrounds. When Harvard Law School started the pilot GRE program, then-Dean Martha Minow said, “For many students, preparing for and taking both the GRE and the LSAT is unaffordable. All students benefit when we can diversify our community in terms of academic background, country of origin, and financial circumstances. Also, given the promise of the revolutions in biology, computer science, and engineering, law needs students with science, technology, engineering and math backgrounds.  For these students, international students, multidisciplinary scholars, and joint-degree students, the GRE is a familiar and accessible test, and using it is a great way to reach candidates not only for law school, but for tackling the issues and opportunities society will be facing.”

The ABA held a hearing in July to consider specifying what test(s) are valid for law school admissions, which would change current language requiring merely “a valid and reliable admission test.”  While this could impact the ability for schools to accept the GRE as an admissions test alternative, a decision is unlikely to come in the short term. In the meantime, it appears likely that additional law schools will follow the path of these four and include the GRE as an accepted part of the admissions process.  

While the limited number of law schools accepting the GRE might make the LSAT a safer choice for current prospective law students, the broader lessons and values that these law schools are espousing are worth considering when putting together a law school application. Applicants should consider highlighting STEM minors or academic courses, unusual career or internship experiences, or other unique qualities that might add value and interest within the school’s student body.