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Application Trends:
When and Why They're Meaningful

Application Trends 2010

Dee Cee Forum Attendance, 2010

[Artwork courtesy of LSAC; photo courtesy of Pablo Moretto. Thanks, Pablo!]

So What Does it Mean?

That attendance was up 46%. Oh, you want the implications? You law school applicants never do develop a sense of humor!

Forum Attendance, 2000 to 2008

As you can see, data provided by LSAC indicates a correlation between Forum attendance and applicants. However, individual Forums do not track as neatly. If you click on that link and study the city-by-city data, you'll see quite a bit of variance. But if I had to predict, I'd predict an increase in applicants for the fall of 2010.

The bigger news is the increase in LSATs administered:
look at that data!

LSATs Administered

Data from that same page shows that while applicants are holding steady, test-takers have skyrocketed. This could mean that a lot of people are taking the LSAT, seeing a low score, and deciding not to apply. More likely it means that applicants are playing LSAT Roulette, trying again and again to get the magic number [and, from all accounts, failing most of the time].

How big a deal is that? Okay, one more graph:

Application Trends, 1965 to 2005

When applicants were at rock bottom, in the mid-1980s, about 65% of all applicants were admitted. When applicants skyrocketed around 1990 and again in 2004, about 40% were offered seats. In between about half got lucky.

As it says (more or less) in the Book of Matthew,
"Many Apply, but Few are Chosen." 

What Does it Mean?

No one knows. National increases and decreases tell you nothing about individual schools. For instance, in 2010, applications were considered even or slightly lower than in 2009. But a top admissions officer whom I spoke to in Los Angeles (who shall remain unnamed because I forgot to ask permission to quote) reported increases of 10% to 50% at top law schools. (The 50% increase belonged to Cornell.)

I said, "I usually see my job as to look over the tapestry of the nation's law schools and then place each client on that tapestry.  This year I feel like I have to weave a whole new tapestry."

The admissions officer replied, "Well I would describe it more as the same old tapestry, but with so much mud thrown on it that you can't see the picture.  We have to scrape the mud off before we can begin placing applicants. There are so many applicants with high LSAT scores but otherwise undistinguished files that we're having a difficult time choosing."

And what is that mud?

  • A major increase in the number of people playing LSAT Roulette, now that the ABA looks at the highest LSAT score. [See my section on retaking the LSAT]
  • A major increase in the number of people applying, because they can't find a job and want more skills (plus maybe student loan money to live on).
  • The admissions officer mentioned that sensationalist reporting about the dearth of top jobs (which does in fact exist) is fueling the shift from lower-ranked schools to higher-ranked ones, in the misplaced belief that top schools still have plenty of jobs. 

After four Law Forums (DC, Miami, Chicago and Atlanta) and three University law fairs (Texas A&M, USC, and UW), I don't know anything. No firm cutoffs, no firm financial policies, no easy yeses, no easy no's.

That May Be...

To paraphrase a song by Aaron Neville and Linda Ronstadt, I don't know much; but that may be all I need to know.

Knowing that something is unknowable, like the existence of God, is often all you need to know. Do your best, plan for the worst, expect anything.

So that's Loretta DeLoggio's Official Advice: apply very broadly; pick safeties, super-safeties, and longshots with as wild an abandon as your budget can afford; retake the LSAT IF YOU HAVE ANY REASON TO THINK YOU'LL GET A BETTER SCORE.

Some of you will be surprised to learn that the LSAT is NOT a game of chance, and that you can build the skills you need to do well on it. In fact, I have a whole section of my web site and a number of recommended books over here.

Are we sure of anything? 

Yes.

  • We’re expecting higher applicant volumes.
  • We’re expecting more – perhaps many more – multiple LSAT scores.  So remember that while you’re retaking in an effort to get a bite out of a bigger apple, so are 10,000 other applicants. 
  • Law schools are going to stall as long as they can at making decisions about anyone below targeted medians.  So expect to wait a long, long, time. [Yes, I know it's a song title, but I decided to give you a break.] 

 

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