According to a recent study published by Kaplan Test Prep, 54 percent of law school admissions officers reported cutting the size of their entering classes for 2013-2014, and 25 percent intend to do it again next year. This report comes in light of a bigger trend: an overall decrease in applications. Per the Law School Admission Council, the organization responsible for writing the LSAT, applications have dropped from 602,300 to 385,400 in the last three years.
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Reducing class size is a matter of basic economics, says Ann Levine,author of "The Law School Admission Game: Play Like an Expert"and founder of LawSchoolExpert.com, an admissions consulting firm for those in the field. “I think it’s inevitable because when there are fewer applicants, law schools aren’t going to dip down to cut their rankings; they have no choice but to cut [class size].”
One culprit for sluggish applications is the economy, Levine says. “Five years ago when I talked to applicants, they never talked about this issue,” she explains. “Now every single applicant is talking about [it].”
Law schools will bounce back
Levine is confident that interest in law will increase similar to the way that people have begun buying houses again after the economic crash. “People are keeping an eye on what’s going on with student loans and job prospects, so it’s that cautious optimism. I do think that we will see people come back to law school because it’s a universal degree.”
Jeff Thomas, executive director of pre-law programs at Kaplan Test Prep, agrees. “There will always be a need for lawyers, especially in ‘hot’ areas like elder law, tax law, compliance, privacy and healthcare, among others. We encourage pre-law students to figure out what they may do with their J.D. once it's in hand. This will make their paths a lot smoother.”
At the beginning of the smooth path, of course, is the LSAT. According to data from the Law School Admission Council, the number of test-takers last month was down 45 percent since 2009. Thomas explains, “In 2008 we saw a spike in LSAT takers that rose in subsequent years as many saw law school as an attractive option for waiting out the recession. This population has now graduated and while the economy is slowly recovering, the supply of recent law school graduates is outpacing the current demand.”
Thomas does say that it's nothing to be too concerned about, in the long run. “It’s important to note, however, that the number of law school applicants is cyclical. As the economy improves, we’d expect a natural decline anyway," he says. "Historically, when the economy is doing relatively well, there is a decrease in the number of law school applicants as those who are graduating college can more readily find a job and go directly into the workforce.”
Four Tips for Acing the LSATs
1. Practice, practice, practice. “Take at least five practice tests before taking the actual test,” Levine advises.
2. Time yourself. “Simply practicing questions would be insufficient. It’s a five-section test with 35-minute sections. It’s an endurance test. Practice the endurance and the timing to spend on each question,” she adds.
3. Never leave a question blank. Thomas explains, “Your scaled score of 120-180 is solely a product of the number of correct answers you give on the test.”
4. Take the writing section seriously. Although it’s unscored, a copy of it is sent to every law school you apply to. He quips, “Don’t blow it off!”