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April 30, 2014


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A paltry increase of about 380 applicants over last week. We could be into June before this thing hits 50,000. Perhaps a 10% decline in applicants is still a possibility.


Looking at the past five or six of these posts, it appears that the predicted number of applicants has been steadily increasing (with a couple of minor variations).

Any sense of the reasons for this?


Anon, I could be wrong, but I think the predicted number should have gone down, I think there is a typo on the LSAC page (not certain which one), but both weeks seem to have said " this time, we had 89% of the preliminary final applicant count." Obviously extrapolating from the 89% on both weeks is strange.

Alfred L. Brophy

Anon123 -- I wondered about the 89% myself -- my guess is that there were a couple hundred additional applicants this week last year, so the 89% might be correct for both weeks.


I clicked back to "part six" and found that the predicted number of applicants (with a few slight variations) has been steadily increasing, from around 51K to around 55K.

Perhaps I'm reading these posts incorrectly, or, is there something about the "last year at this time we had" formulation that can account for this? Weather?

It appears that each post in this series is simply plugging updated numbers into a formula, so, there wouldn't be anything anomalous about this or any other particular post, absent a typo, one supposes.


Alfred, you are right, it could be 89% for both weeks, but that would still indicate, to me at least, not to read anything into predicted increase in applicants from last week. If I plug in 89.5%, instead of 89% for applicants in as of now, then the expected final applicant number would not be up from last week.

Alfred L. Brophy

Anon123: It's a mistake to read much into the week-over-week changes, especially at this time of the year. We're now dealing with small numbers of applicants in any one week.

Paul Campos

Last year the initial December numbers suggested a 22% drop in applicants from 2012, down to around 52,000. The final drop ended up being a little more than half that, with final enrollment at 59,400. This year has followed a milder version of that pattern, with the initial December numbers suggesting around 51,000 applicants, and the final number likely to be around 54,000 to 55,000.

There are two likely explanations for this pattern over the last two years:

(1) Law schools were increasingly aggressive over the course of the cycles, as they contemplated potentially catastrophic enrollment drops.

(2) In the new normal, i.e., in an environment in which something like actual graduate employment data are available to prospective applicants, the relative percentage of late applicants goes up, because late applicants are analogous to what in political science is referred to as "low information voters."

In any case, the rolling three year enrollment total for ABA schools in 2012-14 figures to be 120,000, give or take a thousand, down from 153,000 between 2009-11.

Alfred L. Brophy

Anon123, you shouldn't be reading too much into the week-to-week changes. We're dealing with small numbers of applicants at this time of the year.


Alfred, no need to say twice. But I think that any increase in applicants will decline as percent of last year. Last year, many schools put a full court press on late in the year; this year they have beating the bushes all year. Time will tell.


I am curious about the divergence between the fall in applications and number of applicants - the fall in applications has been 9.2% to applicants 8.3% It is not a huge divergence but it does mean that applicants are applying to fewer law schools. I wonder does this mean that they are going to be more selective/rejective of law schools - i.e., that more applicants will reject going to law school if they do not get the school and/or aid package they want or need.

On the scamblogs the strong advice has been only go to a T5 for full tuition, a T20 with a substantial financial aid package for all 3 years, or a lower school on a completely free ride. If that is what many of this years applications are holding out for there could be a larger divergence between the number of students who receive an offer and those who matriculate than in previous years.


Paul, I agree with your conclusion as to decrease in total law school enrollment. I also suspect that other than in T14, the portion of students paying full tuition (counting loans as paying) is decreasing -- i.e., the tuition decrease is worse than the enrollment decrease.


A few points to various commenters:

MacK - The ~87% number of enrollees/accepted applicants has apparently been very steady over the last decade. If it was not a factor last year, then I doubt it will be a factor this year. I hope I'm wrong.

Paul - I think that by just extending the application deadline by 3-4 months, schools have been able to increase the total number of applicants. Even if just at the margins. It sounds stupid, but when you think about it, almost any reason that these kids may have for attending the majority of these schools will be stupid.

Anon123 - You're right, when applications decline, but enrollment declines less drastically, there are hidden costs to the schools. One is that they probably had to give out more scholarship money. Another is that the quality of the student body declines rather dramatically, which will have long-term detrimental effects on the schools reputation.


It will be interesting to see how parent universities respond to the constant slashing of admissions standards. Parent universities that are effectively open enrollment (or nearly so) might not care overmuch, and the top-tier law schools (basically HYS at this point) might not have to cut standards, but the Georgetown/Cornell/Duke type schools are not going to let the law schools dilute the brands that much before stepping in and either forcing them to become smaller or even eventually just shutting them all down.

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