A Buyer’s Market for Law School Admissions
Klint W. Alexander, Ph.D. J.D. University of Wyoming College of Law Laramie, Wyoming
As we kick of the new year at the University of Wyoming College of Law, I am pleased to report that the incoming 2020 class (the College’s Centennial Anniversary class) is top-notch. 72 outstanding students matriculated from a total applicant pool of 365. The demographic make-up of the group consists of 48% Wyoming residents, 43% women and 10% minority. Tis is especially good news considering the fact that law school applications were down 2% nationwide and 4% in the Mountain West this past year, continuing the negative trend of declining applications since the Financial Crisis of 2008.
The decline in law school applications is caused by several factors, including increasing price tag, turmoil in the legal job market, and a general pessimism about the future of the legal profession as a whole.
With declining applications comes higher law school acceptance rates and more competition for the best students. According to U.S. News & World Report, the average number of applicants at the top 14 schools in the Best Law Schools rankings was 20.6 percent lower for the entering class of 2016 than it was for the entering class of 2008. Meanwhile, the average number of applicants at lower-ranked law schools plunged 52.3 percent between 2008 and 2016. Tough acceptance rates at the top 14 law schools were only slightly higher for the entering class of 2016 than they were for the entering class of 2008, these rates at lower-ranked law schools rose more than 20 percentage points between 2008 and 2016.
As a result, law schools are more generous these days towards applicants than in the past. Admissions offices are more supportive and lenient in terms of application deadlines, scholarship awards, wait-listing of borderline applicants, and the granting of deferrals. Some law schools will accept applications all the way up to the first day of class if a student has good test scores. Moreover, the drop in applications has given law school applicants increased leverage in...