Back around 1997, the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) started trending upwards. It generally kept trending upwards until 2009. But then the recession hit in 2008.
The subsequent contraction of the legal industry generated volumes of bad news regarding the prospects of law students. Suddenly it seemed like law school was no longer a sure bet given that it carried a high debt load and diminished job prospects. In particular, graduates from the nation’s top universities began to avoid law school in droves.
The number of LSAT takers have been on the decline since 2009. This continual downward trend put immense pressure on law schools to shrink class sizes, admit less qualified students, and focus on employment outcomes for graduates. But in 2015…
LSAT: Don’t Call It A Comeback
It appears that LSAT takers bottomed out last year. In 2014, there were 69,448 LSAT takers.1Note: These numbers are for U.S. states & D.C./Puerto Rico only. Canada and outside of the U.S. takers are not included. In 2015, there were 71,492 takers, a 2.94% increase. Other interesting points:
- 13 states continued to have percentage declines from 2014 to 2015.
- North Dakota was the only state with no change year-to-year.
- Maine students seem to want nothing to do with law school. Maine has the largest decline in LSAT takers; -46.89% from 2010 to 2015, and -10.00% from 2014 to 2015.2Discounting Puerto Rico, which is -18.91%.
- Wyoming students are getting back in the saddle. It has the largest increase in LSAT takers; +41.30% from 2014 to 2015.
- Six other states/territories had double digit percentage increases in LSAT takers from 2014 to 2015: D.C., Iowa, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Vermont.
Despite the increase in LSAT takers, I doubt this is a sign of a return to glory days. The June 2016 LSAT numbers that the LSAC released indicate a slight dip in test takers from last year. But, the biggest turnout for the LSAT is usually Sept and December, so the LSAT takers might still go up. Regardless, I don’t expect there to be a massive upward trend in LSAT takers.
Instead, I think it’s more likely that we’re going to approach a “new normal.” There might be a slight uptick in test takers this year. They could go slightly down or remain relatively flat.
But given the current trends in law schools and the legal industry, I don’t see any reason to project that LSAT takers are going to dramatically increase to their heyday. It will take a couple more years of LSAT data to be sure.
If you like graphs and data, then you should check out my book on going from law school to practice. It doesn’t contain any graphs or data at all.