Will the Digital LSAT Change Law School Admissions?

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To put it politely, the legal industry is not exactly known for its rapid adaptation to change. In light of that fact, with the recent changes to the LSAT — the shift to a digital format and the addition of twice as many testing dates per year — there are seismic shifts happening in the prelaw world this year.

Since we’re total nerds when it comes to this stuff, we couldn’t help but wonder how these changes would affect the law school admissions landscape. Now that it’s arguably easier to take the LSAT, will more people take it and subsequently apply to law school? And how will it change the law school application timeline?

There’s no reason to suspect the number of applicants will dramatically increase

I don’t expect the new format of the LSAT to make a huge difference in the number of applicants to law school. There will probably be a slight bump, particularly in the number of applicants to lower-ranked schools — but at the end of the day, someone who really wanted to go to law school was gonna get it done regardless of the number of times per year that the LSAT was offered.

But more people will take the LSAT multiple times

However, I do expect it to make a big difference in terms of the number of people taking the LSAT more than once. Even aside from the previous limit on the number of times one could take the LSAT, there just weren’t that many chances during each application cycle to retake the LSAT. For instance, someone who had originally taken the September LSAT could conceivably take it again in December, but if the December date didn’t work for any reason or if the December test didn’t go as well as they’d hoped, their options were severely limited. They could retake in February, but not all schools accepted February scores for the current year’s application cycle, or they could put off applying for another year.

Now, there are a lot more options for anyone who wants more than one opportunity to take the LSAT. Of course, that person is still constrained by the amount of time available for studying between retakes — for instance, taking the LSAT in September and then again in November doesn’t leave a ton of time to actually improve one’s skills — but the logistics are much easier.

The application timeline will probably stay the same, more or less

As far as the application timeline, for students whose goal was to get their applications complete on the early side of the admissions cycle — since applying earlier in the cycle is likely to improve one’s chances slightly — the traditional advice has been to aim for the June or September LSAT so that the application can be fully compiled and ready to go prior to the winter holidays. The thinking was that many people wrap up their applications between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, so getting your application done ahead of that period put you ahead of the curve.

I suspect that the overall timeline will stay about the same. There are a lot of time-consuming components involved in applying to law school: writing the personal statement, waiting for letters of recommendation, and of course studying for the LSAT. Having more options for taking the LSAT will alleviate some of the logistical issues, but applicants will still need to contend with the other pieces of the application, and those pieces will continue to take some time.
But the good news for applicants is that they aren’t locked into trying to take the LSAT by September; they can get their LSAT done earlier and then focus on the other parts of the application, or they can put off the LSAT a little longer and still get their applications complete on the early side of the cycle.

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I don’t mean to downplay the likely impact of the recent changes — there’s no doubt that these changes were implemented to make the LSAT more user-friendly, and there will be some changes to macro trends. But the biggest change will be that the new LSAT will make applying to law school ever-so-slightly less logistically challenging for an individual person. And any change that makes applying to law school even slightly less painful is a good thing in our books.

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