New data confirm boost in law school attendance

With a strong increase in first-year students, the nation’s 203 ABA-approved law schools grew by 1,385 students, or 1.2 percent, in 2018 from the year before, according to data released Dec. 14 by the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar

First-year enrollment for law students grew by 2.9 percent to 38,390, or 1,070 students, from the 2017 reporting cycle. Compared to 2017, 122 schools reported an increase or no change in their new 1L enrollment and 81 schools report fewer first-year students.

Some legal observers are calling the uptick in law school enrollment the “Trump bump” as interest in law school is bouncing back after seven years of decline and stagnation. First-year enrollment crested in 2010 at more than 52,000 students, before leveling off at about 37,000 students before the recent jump.

“We’ve seen significant jumps in both LSAT takers and law school applications over the past admissions cycle, which has fueled speculation about how much impact, if any, the 2016 election and subsequent political climate has had,” Jeff Thomas, executive director of Kaplan’s pre-law programs, said earlier this year. “We now have an answer: It’s significant. The (Trump) bump is real.”

The trend should continue into 2019. The Law School Admissions Council, which administers the LSAT to prospective law students, reported in November that interest in law schools remains high. The LSAC said of 201 law schools, 20 are showing an increase in applications of 50 percent or more. Although it is early in the application cycle, the LSAC reported more than 32,000 candidates have started a law school application, compared to 29,000 a year ago at the same period.

The ABA data shows total enrollment was 111,561 for Juris Doctor programs in the current academic year with an additional 18,523 students enrolled in other J.D.-required degree programs, such as the LL.M., and masters and certificate programs.

The section’s Council is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the sole accreditor of law schools for the J.D. 

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