No, it’s not your imagination. Aspiring lawyers tend to be more self-confident, enjoy more family wealth and are more likely to have a lawyer parent than the average college student, according to research released by the Law School Admission Council.
The study, Behind the Data: Comparing Law School Applicants To All College Freshman, weighed the socioeconomic, demographic and other characteristics of law school applicants.
"This report illuminates how students’ backgrounds, experiences, and goals may affect their decision to apply to law school and their ultimate success in applying and being admitted to law school," LSAC researchers Ann Gallagher and Phil Handwerk wrote.
The researchers found that high school grades, performance on standardized tests and socioeconomic status factor into whether college freshmen report an interest in going to law school.
They drew upon data from The Freshman Survey, which the University of California at Los Angeles’ Cooperative Institutional Research Program since 1999 has administered to college freshman at 1,500 institutions. The researchers scrutinized the responses by nearly 40,000 freshmen who went on to apply to law school between 2006 and 2009. That offered a look at how the freshmen who applied compared to their classmates who did not pursue law school.
Among freshmen who went on to apply to law school, 50 percent reported that their families would pay $10,000 or more toward their undergraduate expenses, compared to 31 percent for all college freshman. The aspiring lawyers also had more highly educated parents: 41 percent said their father held a graduate degree, and 28 percent said their mother held one. That compared to 23 percent and 18 percent, respectively, for all college freshman.
The aspiring lawyers rated themselves more highly than the typical college student regarding academic ability, public speaking, drive to achieve and tendency to socialize with students outside their own race. Of the eventual law school applicants, 87 percent reported that they had "above average" academic abilities, compared to 69 percent of all college freshman.
Future law school applicants gave higher importance to "becoming a community leader" and "keeping up to date with political affairs" than did the typical college freshman.
The report also offers comparisons between future law school applicants of different races and socioeconomic standing. "For Black or African American applicants, the median estimate of parents’ income was approximately $50,000, whereas for Caucasian/White students, the median was closer to $100,000," the researchers wrote.
They found that future Asian and white law school applicants tended to have parents with a higher level of formal education than their black and Hispanic counterparts.
While black and Hispanic college students who went on to apply to law school reported lower high school grade-point averages than did Asian and white applicants, a higher percentage put themselves in the top 10 percent when asked about their drive to achieve.
Of the college freshmen with a lawyer father, 14 percent of those who indicated that they were interested in law school ultimately applied while 8 percent did not apply. Of the freshman who did not report being interested in law school but eventually did apply, 11 percent had lawyer fathers.