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Why Some Top Law Schools are Still Accepting Applications

It’s no secret that law school applications are down.

It’s no secret that law schools don’t like their GPA/LSAT medians to drop.

And it’s no secret that these factors have come together for an…interesting application cycle.

What is a secret, however, is some of the lengths law schools are going to in order to address the problems they face.

Law schools are digging deeper into their waitlists than ever before (just the fact that top schools are having to pull from their waitlists is huge). Rutgers is admitting students who haven’t even applied (if they have good enough numbers). Scholarships are being handed out like candy. And law schools have left their application deadlines open way past their traditional closure.

What’s all this mean, and where’s it heading?

First, if you’re still languishing on a waitlist, don’t give up hope. Law schools haven’t filled their classes, and they’re going to have to if they want to collect that tuition money they love so much. Keep sending in those LOCIs, and keep those fingers crossed.

Second, if you took the June LSAT, did well, and can quickly shift your plans to include law school in two months, you might still be able to apply. Contact the admissions offices of the law schools in which you have an interest – they might tell you to send an application over.

As far as the ramifications go, I think they’re going to be quite huge.

If the law schools are as desperate as they appear, their numbers must be trending down faster than most thought. While it’s no secret that the decline in LSAT test-takers came disproportionately from the top, it might be the case that those top scorers who did end up taking the LSAT are reconsiderig the decision to go to law school even with their high score.

The amount of scholarship money, even for people being accepted off the waitlist, is huge. It seems to me the law schools recognize that they need to lower tuition, but they don’t want to be the first to blink. Instead, like a good used car salesman, they vastly inflate the sticker price, giving you a ‘discount’ because you’re special. I think we’ll start to see some of the T2 law schools lower their tuition prices next year to entice more applicants. Once the dam is broken, I can see a slight readjustment in the legal education market.

Next year should continue the downward trend of applicants/numbers, so if you’re a borderline candidate, now is the time to apply. Not only do you have a better shot at admission, but you’re in the power seat – you can probably negotiate some scholarship money.

And, finally, I think that continuing to consider law school applications at this point is a short-sighted view of the problem. Yes, it’ll fill seats immediately. But these students who are being admitted now, with a June LSAT score, are the ones who the law schools would recruit in the upcoming application season. If they get them now, next year’s class is going to be even harder to fill. They’re essentially poaching from themselves, and I don’t see most law schools being able to use this stopgap year to change their makeup enough to absorb the shock next year.

It’s an interesting time to be involved in legal education. And it’s a great time to be an applicant. Law students used to have to wait until OCI to be wined and dined by firms. If this trend continues, the process might start two years earlier with the law schools.