Law Schools See Tougher Competition, Less Applicants

Despite a two-year decline in the number of students
applying to law schools, the competitiveness of newly admitted classes has
either increased or remained constant during this time — a seeming paradox that
may nonetheless offer hope to prospective law students.

A survey circulated to admissions officers at 190 national
law schools by exam preparation service Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions found
that about half of the queried schools reported a drop in applications over the
last two years. Though the numbers of applicants have tended to rise and fall
over the decades the survey has been conducted, in the past few years the
national trend has taken an unprecedented downturn.

Steve Marietti, director of Kaplan’s pre-law program, said
that 2006 saw a 4.8-percent decline in applicants. For the current year, the
number has decreased drastically — a staggering 17.4 percent.

Since the 1950s, many other options have opened for students
who instead pursue graduate degrees or join the work force. The number of students
pursuing medical, biological or engineering careers has also risen, which may
contribute to the dwindling numbers of law school applicants.

“The strength of the economy, including the availability of
jobs, has a significant effect in what students choose to pursue in their
post-undergrad years,” Marietti said.

Despite the drop in applicants, most law schools say that
their classes are as academically qualified as ever.

Marietti said the reason for the high-quality applicant pool
in spite of the decline in interest is due to the fact that qualified students
continue to apply.

“Others may be discouraged to apply because of the
competitive nature of the application process, therefore raising the averages
of enrolling classes,” he said.

Marietti reported that while 50 percent of admissions
offices agreed that they were receiving fewer applications, 79 percent said
that their admitted classes were not becoming any less competitive.

Contrary to the shrinking applicant figures, the number of
students actually enrolling in law school is on a slow rise. According to data
from the American Bar Association Legal Education and Admissions branch
released in February, the number enrolled has risen 0.3 percent, by
approximately over 800 students.

Although nationally it seems that the applicant pool is
decreasing, some schools have reported climbs in their choice of applicants.
According to Robert Schwartz, assistant dean of admissions at the UCLA School
of Law, numbers increased from 5,834 to 6,499.

Marietti warned that the current statistics should be taken
with a grain of salt.

“The events we see in place here are really relative to the
current time period,” he said. “These statistics will have their ups and downs,
just like any other sort of statistical graph. What this means, though, is that
students need to take advantage of the stats.”

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