According to LSAC, the number of LSAT takers was up 20% from June of last year. In the four or five years since I became more attentive to LSAT trends, I can’t remember very many jumps as significant as this one. This post is going to discuss a few factors that may have played into the increase in test-takers.
First off, there may be a so-called “Trump Bump” contributing to the increase. Not too long ago (although it seems like an eternity in media time), President Trump’s travel ban caused furor across the country. The unlikely heroes that emerged from the ordeal were ACLU lawyers. There was widespread coverage of the lawyers sitting in airports with their laptops, championing the rights of those affected by the ban. The ACLU received a huge influx of donations. And around the country, people hugged lawyers while the hallelujah chorus played against a backdrop of rainbows. I may have exaggerated that last part, but it reflects how I feel about the exaggerated effect of any “Trump bump.” While a few people may have felt a call to action based on their beliefs regarding the President’s actions, I highly doubt that this was the motivating factor in a large swath of individuals deciding to spend three years and several hundred thousand dollars attaining a law degree, especially to pursue public interest work. Maybe that’s jaded but, hey, that’s what law school does for you.
So, what are some more likely reasons for the increase? Well, for one thing, the legal market has been rebounding since it plummeted to ruin in 2008. To be clear, hiring is not, nor will it ever be, the same as it was during the pre-recession years at the turn of the millennium. But there is slightly–ever so slightly–less panic about finding a job out of law school. The prospect of a high-paying, entry-level job out of law school is likely a huge motivator, particularly for people unsure of the career pay they want to pursue.
As a counterpoint to the above, a separate factor that could be playing a role in the numbers is an increase in re-takers. If people aren’t buying into the notion that the law market has rebounded, then they’re probably more likely to re-take the LSAT if they received a subpar LSAT score, in the hopes of attaining an offer of admission to a school that will provide them with better employment opportunities. I think this is probably the most reasonable explanation. Commentators, counselors, and bloggers have been proclaiming from the rooftop that law school is no longer–or at least very rarely–a sound investment if you don’t go to a top school. If this concept is sinking in, then it would naturally result in a more tentative approach from potential applicants.
Thus, at the end of the day, I’m not sure this increase in LSAT-takers will translate into an increase in law school applicants. We’ve seen increases before–albeit smaller ones–that failed to lead to corresponding increase in applications. Avoiding a rise in applicants is actually a positive for anyone considering law school. More applicants means more graduates and more job-seekers, which means more competition for jobs in the already over-saturated private job market.
The increase in LSAT-takers might be partially the result of social justice warriors seeking to undo this administration’s policies, and it might have something to do with the job market, but I think it is more likely a result of people choosing to re-take scores that might’ve been good enough in the past. And I think this is probably a good thing for you if you’re considering going to law school.