Huge increase in law school applications

UPDATE August 2012: Please note the date on this blog post—it’s from 2010 and does not describe the current state of admissions. I’m leaving it up because it may be of interest to some of you to know how application volume has fluctuated.

As expected, the economy is sending people out of the job market and into law and graduate school, in large numbers. Taking on significant debt is not in fact a good strategy for riding out a poor economy, especially given the uncertainty of any commensurate pay-off, but that doesn’t seem to be slowing down the rush to law school:

Officials at many law schools reported substantial increases in applications over last year. Washington University in St. Louis has had a 19 percent year-to-date increase in applications to its college of law. At the University of San Francisco School of Law, applications are up 35 percent over last year, and at the University of Iowa’s College of Law, applications are up 39 percent.

Some increases are more explicable than others. Applications to the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University have risen 54 percent this year, which may be related to its rise in the U.S. News & World Report rankings to 23 in 2009, from 36 the year before.


But at Cornell University’s Law School, whose ranking has remained relatively stable, applications are up 44 percent, and no one is quite sure of the reason for such a large increase.


Richard Geiger, dean of admissions, said: “I’m a little thrown off by the fact that our increase is much bigger than expected. There’s nothing big we’re doing to explain that kind of increase.”

What does this mean in real terms for those of you applying this year?  More competition and a tougher road to admission.  The number of seats available in law schools has not increased comparably, meaning more applicants are competing for the same number of spots.  The hard truth is that many of you should expect to see more rejections and wait-lists than you would have in prior years.  If you have not yet filed an application, and are therefore later in the admission cycle to begin with, you might want to (re)consider postponing your application for a year or two, until the admissions fever subsides (as it surely will).  At the very least, those of you are preparing to graduate in May should be pursuing a job search at the same time as you complete the application process.