Fledgling law students began arriving on campuses this month, and some law schools are welcoming a record number of new faces.
First-year enrollment is up 35 percent from last year at Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. The University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law’s new class is 25 percent bigger than its predecessor, and at 196 is its largest in six years.
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law saw a 30 percent climb in first-year J.D. enrollment, while the University of South Dakota School of Law and Elon University School of Law saw increases of 22 percent and 8 percent, respectively.
Many schools, including higher-ranked institutions, have yet to announce the size of their new classes, and official figures from the American Bar Association likely won’t be available for three or four months. But experts predicted that enrollment would be up at many campuses this fall because the pool of people applying to law school for admission this fall grew by 8 percent over the previous year. Pundits have speculated that an improved entry-level legal job market and political upheaval have prompted more people to pursue careers in the law.
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First-year enrollment isn’t up across the board, however. Brooklyn Law School held steady with its new J.D. class, while the nearby St. John’s University welcomed a slightly smaller class of 251. However, that smaller class is especially diverse, the school noted. Thirty are first-generation Americans, 24 were born outside of the United States, and 27 percent are students of color.
“You are cancer survivors and environmental activists, dancers and athletes, teachers and technologists,” Dean Michael Simons said at a new student convocation Aug. 12. “You have worked with refugees and sexual assault victims. You have started businesses and raised children.”
Deans at several of the law schools that saw significant enrollment climbs also highlighted the higher academic credentials those classes brought in.
Arizona State’s applicant pool was 64 percent larger than it was for the fall 2017 entering class, and that larger pool enabled the school to admit a new class with a median LSAT score of 163—up one point from the previous year.
“We have the faculty, resources and dedication to offer a world-class legal education, that’s borne out by the incredible accomplishments of our graduates,” said Dean Douglas Sylvester. “Those results are attracting an increasingly talented pool of applicants from throughout the country, which allows us to keep aiming higher.”
McGeorge’s median and 75th percentile LSAT scores are both up this year, as is the median undergraduate grade-point average of the new students. The increased size and quality of the new class were the result of a strategic plan put together by the law faculty and university, according to Dean Michael Hunter Schwartz.
“We set out to create a relevant, modern, practical, and innovative curriculum that would be attractive to prospective students, and we succeeded beyond our wildest expectations,” he said.
In addition to being larger, this year’s national law school applicant pool performed better on the LSAT. Data from the Law School Admission Council shows that much of the growth came from applicants with LSAT scores of 160 and above—reversing the trend in which more people with lower LSAT scores were applying.
For more about increases in law school applications and higher LSAT scores among applicants, click here.