The hoped-for law school “Trump Bump” might actually have legs.
The number of people who took the Law School Admission Test in June climbed nearly 20 percent over last year—the largest percentage increase for any individual LSAT administration since September 2009. (Legal education observers will remember that the 2010-11 academic year was the high-water mark for national law school enrollment before a steady, six-year decline.)
Professors and deans speculated this spring that turmoil in Washington—and more specifically President Trump’s so-called Muslim ban and the high-profile response of lawyers who flocked to airports to help those affected—would prompt more people to consider law school. The June LSAT, which is widely viewed as the first of the 2018 admissions cycle, offered the first real test of the Trump Bump theory.
The Law School Admission Council gave the LSAT in February, after Trump took office, but that timing didn’t offer the newly inspired much time to sign up and study for the all-important entrance exam. Most law school admissions officers said they would be watching the June and fall LSATs to gauge any potential applicant surge. It’s worth noting that law schools will welcome any applicant boost, considering the number of applicants for the 2016/17 academic year was nearly 36 percent smaller than the 2010 applicant pool.
Council President Kellye Testy said this week that Trump may well be a factor in June’s “significant” increase in LSAT takers.
“I think people are starting to understand again the necessity for the rule of law,” she said. “Our current political climate has demonstrated that.”
It’s unlikely that employment rates for new lawyers are spurring the interest. Although entry-level legal employment rates have ticked up a bit over the past two years, those increases have been the result of fewer new law graduates entering the market rather than growth in the number of actual jobs.
Still, it’s too early to tell whether or not the surge in June LSAT takers will translate into more people submitting actual applications, Testy said. June was the first administration of the test since the Council announced that people can take the exam as many times as they please. Previously, the Council restricted people from taking the test more than three times during a two-year period. Hence, it’s possible that some portion of the increase is due to those who previously may have waited to take a later test, but now see no downside to taking it earlier and more often.
Compared to June of 2016, an additional 4,555 took the test last month, according to the Council.
It appears that any “Trump Bump” won’t come in time for the upcoming school year, however. The Council also reported this week that the total number of law school applicants for the fall is down half a percent from the previous year.
Contact Karen Sloan at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @KarenSloanNLJ