What Downsizing At Law Schools Means for Applicants

Recently the Wall Street Journal reported that several law schools are planning to reduce the size of their incoming JD classes (“With Profession Under Stress, Law Schools Cut Admissions”). Now I’ll never get in! I’m sure that’s what law school applicants across the country were thinking. While it is true that fewer places means increased competition to get into law school, serious applicants should actually be pleased.

In taking what appear to be drastic measures, law schools have actually increased the value of a law degree. Recently, a number of voices have been making the case that the much-vaunted law degree was not worth what it once was. To a certain extent, those naysayers were correct. The economic crisis of the past few years has forced law firms to cut back on their law school hiring while law schools kept churning out the same number of graduates.  The result? After spending tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars on a legal education, some graduates were forced to take non-legal jobs – earning non-legal salaries – just to find work.

By reducing the number of JD candidates accepted, law schools are trying to guarantee that all of their students will graduate with the type of jobs they want. When you get into a JD program, you won’t have to worry about a glut of law school grads crowding you out of the legal job market. Successful law school applicants can rest easier knowing that your significant investment is likely to pay off in three years.

A smaller number of JD acceptances also means that class sizes will be smaller, resulting in more personalized attention and the quality professor interaction you expect for your sizable tuition dollars.

The news isn’t all good. Applicants who are winging it – throwing together an application to see if they get in – have probably wasted their application fees. Fewer places means admissions committees are stepping up their application reviews, looking for evidence that applicants are qualified to attend their schools and committed to practicing law.

For serious applicants, now is the time to focus on creating your best applications, the ones that will get past rigorous admissions committees looking to fill smaller entering classes with dedicated and talented JD hopefuls. Remember, thanks to hardline law schools, a legal job will likely be waiting for you after graduation. Kind of makes all that up-front investment seem worth it.

Andrea Kilpatrick is the Director, Law Admissions, of Admit Advantage, a premier admissions consulting company assisting candidates in formulating successful law school applications. Led by graduates of the country’s premier law schools, including Harvard, Stanford, Yale, NYU, Virginia, Columbia, Chicago and others, Admit Advantage leverages extensive experience and resources to advise JD candidates across the country.

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