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How Competitive Will the 2022 Law School Admissions Cycle Be? | Law Admissions Lowdown

Welcome to the latest release of Law Admissions Questions and Answers, a feature that provides advice on law school admissions to readers who submit inquiries. If you have a question about law school admissions, email us for a chance to appear in a future publication.

I heard that last year’s law school admissions cycle was unprecedented in its competitiveness. Do you have any updated news on this year’s application numbers and the status of how you expect the 2022 cycle? – SM

True, last year’s admissions cycle was unexpectedly competitive, inundating many law schools with more applications than they could handle.

According to statistics from the Law School Admissions Council, or LSAC, nearly 71,000 people applied to law school for 2021, nearly 13% more than the previous year. These applicants tend to have higher grades and LSAT scores than in previous years, in part because the pandemic has left them with more time on their hands to study.

The total number of applications submitted increased by nearly 27%, which indicates that applicants have hedged their bets by applying to more schools in response to stiff competition.

While many applicants may have ended up not fulfilling their hopes, most law schools have increased class size to partially offset the influx. The total number of first-year students enrolled in law school increased by more than 10% from 2020 to 2021.

Putting the last cycle in perspective

Fluctuations in law school applications frequently occur due to economics, political events, demographic changes, and other factors. Historical data shows that the number of applicants to ABA-accredited law schools peaked at more than 100,000 in 2004 before dropping steadily to less than 55,000 in 2015, although a systematic change five years ago means the data is not Directly comparable to more recent figures.

Therefore, it is safe to say that last year’s admissions cycle was the most competitive in a decade, although far from being unparalleled. Just like previous peak periods, the flow of applicants is likely to decline in the past year. The question is when.

Many of the forces behind this rise appear to be fleeting, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic instability, large-scale social justice protests and a controversial election that highlighted lawyers. With the unemployment rate now relatively low, many potential law school applicants may seek other opportunities rather than face another challenging admissions cycle.

As of mid-December 2021, LSAC data shows that the number of applicants is down 4.6% from last year, and the total number of applications submitted is down 3.6%. It’s usually more than 40% of applications at this point, so it would be surprising to fill that gap. If anything, it is likely that more applicants will submit their applications early in this cycle to move forward with the package after last year’s rush.

Similarly, LSAC data for LSAT registration shows that the total number of test takers in August, October and November this year is slightly lower than during the same months in 2020.

Implications for current and future applicants

Current law school applicants may be relieved to hear that this year’s course is shaping up to be a little less crowded than last year. Unfortunately, they are probably competing for fewer seats.

Since last year’s oversaturated pool of applicants surprised many law school admissions offices, some law schools have ended up over-enrolling, meaning they have encouraged or even incentivized applicants to defer admission. Other applicants chose to postpone due to uncertainty about the pandemic. These deferred applicants leave less room for law schools to accept new students.

It is unlikely that this problem will persist into the next cycle, as law schools are now better prepared. Applications will likely continue to fall into the next cycle in the absence of another crisis.

As talk spreads about the increasing competitiveness of law school admissions, potential applicants will think twice. It seems unlikely that the long-term trends that caused applications to decline from 2004 to 2015. Applicants are now better aware of price and remuneration at law school than they did two decades ago.

Of course, recent events have shown the dangers of trying to predict the future. Rather than obsessing over admission trends, ambitious attorneys are better at getting a head start on building a solid application.

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