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Is the LSAT Bouncing Back?

LSAC recently released data about the February LSAT, and the number of people who took the February exam increased by 4.4% (as compared to the number of test-takers in February 2014) — one of the biggest percentage increases in years.

This isn’t the only increase we’ve seen recently – in February 2014, the percentage of test-takers increased by 1.1% over the previous February test, and the percentage of people who took the December 2014 LSAT increased by 0.8% relative to December 2013. The jump in February test-takers is significant mainly because it’s so much larger than those other increases. It’s also worth noting that this is the first time in over five years that the number of test-takers has increased in two consecutive test administrations (December and February both saw increases this cycle, which hasn’t happened since the October and December 2009 LSAT administrations).

Despite the increases in December and February, the overall administrations of the LSAT in the 2014-15 cycle were still down by 3.6% compared to 2013-14. But even that decrease is somewhat newsworthy, since the number of test-takers in the 2013-14 cycle decreased by almost twice that (6.2%) compared to 2012-13.

We’ve been saying for a while that the winds of the pre-law world seem to be changing. For a long time, the number of people taking the LSAT plunged with each administration of the test, and the number of people actually applying to law school was way down as well. While applications are still down this cycle, the drop is less noticeable than it was between 2010 and 2013, which – not coincidentally – is also when law schools were forced to release data about soaring law school debt and post-graduation unemployment.

Law school is no longer considered a sure-fire path to a well-paying job, nor should it be. But after a rough few years for law schools, the scales may finally be finding a balance – more people are starting to consider a law career again, and the highest quality applicants are being actively pursued by schools. The legal job market seems to be recovering – slowly and cautiously – and the number of LSAT-takers is following suit.

As part of the ongoing fallout from the recent recession, people are starting to consider in what ways the legal industry should do things differently. In coming years, a limited number of students will be able to enter law school without taking the LSAT at all – a trend that, if it catches on, would be a huge departure from previous policy. But peering into my crystal ball, I’m predicting that we’ll continue to see slight increases in the overall number of LSAT test-takers. However, I don’t think anyone would suggest that the pre-law world will get back to its unsustainable pre-recession highs (or at least, not any time soon). Law education took too much of a hit during the recession, both in terms of reputation and numbers, and although the number of law school applicants could increase slightly over the next few years, the change will be gradual, and applicants should stay very cautious.