Kaplan Survey: What Pre-Law Students Want in Law School Culture Might Be at Odds with Law School Reality

Press Contacts: Russell Schaffer, russell.schaffer@kaplan.com, 212.453.7538
Twitter: @KapTesNews@KaplanLSATPrep

New York, NY (December 3, 2014) — What a student wants and what a student gets in law school may be at odds, often in surprising ways.  Separate Kaplan Test Prep surveys of pre-law students* and law school admissions officers** find that the type of culture aspiring JDs seek isn’t always what they may find once they enter 1L. In fact, in some instances, there are wide disparities. Among the findings:

  • Cut-Throat Competition? While 77% of pre-law students want their future law school to have a collaborative culture where students are working with each other, not against each other, 23% want a competitive student culture, where it may be every aspiring top associate or litigator for himself or herself.  Very few law schools (2%) consider their culture to be competitive; however, a whopping 98% say they believe it to be collaborative.
  • Is there no “I” in Team? Not according to pre-law students. The majority (58%) wants their future law school to have more of an individual emphasis vs. 42% who seek more of a team emphasis. They may be disappointed to learn that just 33% of law school admissions officers perceive their school as placing more emphasis on the individual. The remaining two-thirds believe their school is more team-focused.
  • Keep it Casual? Just over half (55%) want to attend a law school that has a casual environment, while 45% want a law school with a formal environment.  Here’s another area where there is a wide gap between pre-laws’ desires and law school realities: an overwhelmingly 89% of law schools perceive their environment as casual, while just 11% perceive it to be formal.
  • Should Professors Crack a Whip? Unsurprisingly, more than half of pre-law students (53%) want their professors to be lenient, while 47% saying they want their professors to be strict. According to law school admissions officers though, 56% see their professors as strict, while 44% see them as lenient. Students may need to get ready for some tough love.
  • Ready to Practice? Pre-law students and law schools are much more in tune with each other in this area, with 74% of pre-law students saying they want a practice-ready curriculum compared to just 26% who want a more academic focus. More than three-quarters of law schools (77%) say their curriculum is more practice-ready; just 23% say it is more academic-focused.
  • Is Bigger Better? No, according to both pre-law students and law schools. Just 16% of pre-laws want to enroll at a law school with big class sizes, compared to 84% who prefer small class sizes. And that’s just what most law schools are offering — 92% say their class sizes are small, while just 8% say they are big.
  • Sold on Socratic? Law schools know what pre-laws want in this area. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of pre-laws want to learn through the Socratic method. Luckily for them, this is what 75% of law schools say they provide.
  • Is Well-Rounded the Way to Go? Almost two thirds (63%) of pre-law students want a law school to have an interdisciplinary curriculum, while 37% want it specialty-focused.  More than eight in 10 law schools (82%) say their curriculum is interdisciplinary, while just 18% say they are more specialty-focused.

“Law school culture is one of those things that’s not necessarily incorporated into schools’ reputations or rankings, so pre-law students should do some digging to find out which law school best suits their individual tastes. Culture is also a matter of perception, which illustrates why speaking with current students, alumni and professors is so important. We’d also point out that while the survey results give a good general overview of how law schools view themselves, it might be somewhat challenging to place a program into one bucket or another. For most law schools, the reality may be somewhere in between,” said Jeff Thomas, executive director of pre-law programs, Kaplan Test Prep. “It’s also important for law schools to listen to what the next class of entering law school students want. While entry into law school remains competitive, it’s also clear that law schools are sometimes fighting over the best students because there are far fewer applicants now than there were a decade ago. This means intangibles like culture can make a difference. We also think it’s encouraging to see both pre-laws and law schools both recognizing the importance of a practice-ready curriculum. If law schools and the legal job marketplace are to thrive again, it is going to take new thinking like this.”

For more information about Kaplan’s surveys, contact Russell Schaffer at 212.453.7538 or russell.schaffer@kaplan.com.

*The e-survey included responses from 676 Kaplan Test Prep students who took the June 2014 administration of the LSAT®.

**For the 2014 survey, 126 of the 204 American Bar Association-accredited law schools were polled by telephone between August and September 2014. Included among the 126 are 14 of the top 30 law schools, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

LSAT® is a registered trademark of the Law School Admission Council, which neither sponsors nor endorses this product.

About Kaplan Test Prep

Kaplan Test Prep (www.kaptest.com)  is a premier provider of educational and career services for individuals, schools and businesses. Established in 1938, Kaplan is the world leader in the test prep industry. With a comprehensive menu of online offerings as well as a complete array of print books and digital products, Kaplan offers preparation for more than 90 standardized tests, including entrance exams for secondary school, college and graduate school, as well as professional licensing exams for attorneys, physicians and nurses.  Kaplan also provides private tutoring and graduate admissions consulting services. Additionally, Kaplan operates new economy skills training (NEST) bootcamps designed to provide immersive training in skills that are in high demand in today’s job market and prepare participants for hire.

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