the180 live RECAP: the Breaking News in Law School Admissions
November 21, 2013
Thanks to everyone who joined us for the 180 Live law school admissions survey episode, in which we dug deep into all the newest information from admissions experts from 127 schools! We saw in-depth questions from all of you out there, and our experts were definitely impressed by the quality of audience participation. In turn, we were excited both by all of you and by our awesome panel:
Kenneth Kleinrock, NYU School of Law
Anne Richard, University of Virginia School of Law
Stephen Brown, Fordham University School of Law
Rob Schwartz, UCLA School of Law
For those of you who didn’t get the chance to attend, worry not! We are here to provide you with a recap par excellence, including information from the law school admissions survey results and the debates and discussions of our four illustrious in-studio personalities. In total, our panel checked out 21 of the many questions we posed to law school admissions offices, starting with the much-talked-about decline in law school applicant numbers and what that means from the admissions office side of the glass– and for you all, the applicants. There is also another huge opportunity on the horizon: Kaplan’s free LSAT sample class! This could be a great first step toward the kind of strong application you need to compete in the admissions process, and is available on Tuesday 12/3 at 9pm, Monday 12/16 at 8pm, or Saturday 12/21 at 1pm! Give us the chance to show you exactly what it takes to get your LSAT score exactly where it needs to be.
Decline in Law School Applicants
Anne Richards of UVA Law indicated that she noticed that more of the applicants seemed “serious” about their decision to pursue law school, which was seconded by all. In some ways, the decline in law school applicants has separated those who looked at law school as something to try out or an option available if you weren’t sure what you wanted to do, and those who were determined to be an attorney and applied to law school to fulfill their lawyerly dreams and ambitions. Kenneth Kleinrock of NYU Law pointed out that this is actually a great time for that kind of driven, focused, goal-oriented applicant, because those students have more choices open to them than previously, as well as putting more students into the competition for scholarship funds.
Fewer bodies in the applicant pool also led to the shrinking of class sizes for many schools (especially schools outside of the top tier), but 55% surveyed said they did not foresee anymore downsizing, although 44% also said they were not too confident in a forthcoming rebound in numbers. NYU’s Kleinrock also pointed out that in some ways this could have been expected, because right after the recession hit in 2008, record numbers of people turned to law school as a career-furthering option, leading to inflated expectations. Stephen Brown of Fordham Law made the point that although a smaller pool certainly was an opportunity for students, that didn’t mean that law schools (especially top schools) were at the point of desperation (as some media outlets might indicate), and admitting people just to admit people. The quote of the night might have come from Richard, who noted that no good law school is going to just fill seats with bodies; law schools are interested in students who are likely to succeed.
Robert Schwartz of UCLA Law (who flew out for the 180, just for you:) helped give us a good timeline for prospective students; since law schools use rolling admission (admitting people as they receive and review applicants, instead of waiting until the application deadline to make decisions), it is in the best interest of students to get applications in as soon as possible. Schwartz indicated that anytime by Thanksgiving gives you the best chance in terms of timing– so get to work on those applications if you haven’t already. One corollary consequence of the decline in applications, however, has been the increase in admission of students from the wait-list and admissions using later LSAT scores. A rather staggering 78% of schools indicated that they had accepted some Fall 2013 students using a June 2013 LSAT score. It still is always better to get that application in early, but there is a better chance for late comers in this leaner period. Keep in mind, however, that scholarship money is allocated early, and late admissions and wait-list acceptances are much less likely to see merit-based scholarship funds, although all of our experts indicated that the way that money is allocated and spent on students varies widely from school to school.
Unsurprisingly, 58% of the schools responding to our survey indicated that the LSAT score is the single more important factor in your application; they also confirmed as true something we have been saying for a long time: the LSAT is so heavily weighted not just because it is the only uniform factor (though of course that is important) between applications, but because it tests skills that are important for success in law school. 95% of the schools we surveyed indicated that was the case, and on our panel Kleinrock put it simply: if you have big problems with the skills tested on the LSAT, you will probably have big problems in law school. The outsized importance of the LSAT in the application process is a great reason to sign up for our free sample class, and start thinking about what it’s going to take to seize the day on test day effectively. Furthermore, about a third of the schools also indicated a low LSAT score was the biggest application killer– but almost equal was how detrimental a poorly written personal statement could be to your chances. In a general discussion of how closely admissions offices police the internet and social media tracks of potential students, we found that not a lot of time is generally spent googling applicants– but admissions offices do pay attention to law school boards, etc., so try and contain yourself when releasing information about scholarship money, admissions, and other similar information. Also take anything you read with a grain of salt– if you’re not sure if someone is telling the truth about something, call the admissions office of the school. That’s a much better place to get information from than an anonymous and/or random stranger on the internet.
A whopping 80% of school respondents agreed that law school needs to change to keep up with current trends in the world, especially in the face of increased globalization, financial literacy, and development of leadership abilities. But when discussing the biggest possible change that has been floated in the public by no less than the POTUS himself, a two year law school model replacing the current three year curriculum, 75% disagreed with the elimination of the third year. All of our panelists agreed that the third year is the most important in developing “practice-reader lawyers”; in fact, Richards said the only way she could see the benefit of a two year law school is if the student already had a job locked in (example: when a job is willing to pay for law school in exchange for future work). Kleinrock discussed the growing number of clinics covering separate types of law that schools offer– but Brown pointed out that these vary widely from school to school, so if you are interested in something specific, do the research in advance! What kind of clinics are available at the schools to which you are applying? How many seats are available? How competitive is the selection process? All of our panelists agreed that the top law schools were already making the necessary changes to keep a JD a competitive degree, and would continue to do so in the future.
I hope you join us next month for the 180 Live on December 9th, featuring Elie Mystal from the Above the Law blog! Registration is open now:) As for the present, the Kaplan LSAT Sample Classes are coming up this December, so register now and make your future happen! Keep up the good work, and let us know if you have any follow up questions below in the comments.