LSAT trends show increase in test-takers and project modest 2018 JD enrollment increase

In my last post, I looked at the law school enrollment figures for 2017. What might happen in 2018?

While LSAT test-takers are up, it's worth emphasizing that an increasing percentage of test-takers are repeaters, not first-time test-takers. On the flip side, the number of schools accepting the GRE as an alternative to the LSAT may understate the number of law school applicants next year.

More importantly than LSAT test-takers increasing, however, is their quality. I emphasized this years ago: the quality of the applicant pool matters in much the way that the quantity does. Professor Jerry Organ has helpfully examined the increase in quality.

(It's worth noting that LSAC changed its data for law school applicants in 2016; it explains, "Archived data for 2015 and prior years include applicants for the fall term only and also include deferrals; therefore, archived data are not comparable to current data." They are, however, close enough for our present comparative purposes; and 2016-2017 are comparable, albeit I only have an estimate for 2017 right now.)

Let's also provide some comparisons in recent LSAT & enrollment data. We saw 1L JD enrollment largely flat for the fourth straight year, and the overall law school enrollment figure may well have bottomed out.

But LSAT test-takers have increased each year since 2015: from 101,600, to 105,900, to 109,400, with a projected 125,000 test-takers this cycle. LSAT test-takers are not proportionately translating into applicants; indeed, despite a 3.3% increased in LSATs administered last year, applicants actually declined slightly, and matriculants increased only 0.8%. Part of this, as I've identified, is attributable to increased numbers of repeaters taking the LSAT. But there are other reasons why LSATs administered are not translating into applicants--reasons I could only speculate about at this time. In part, low quality test-takers may have contributed to inflated LSAT statistics, but we may be seeing a reversal.

That said, surely such a significant increase in the percentage of LSAT test-takers would yield at least some increase in applicants and matriculants--particularly given the quality of those test-takers. Only time will tell. For now, stagnant JD enrollment is the status quo, and law schools can look forward to a glimmer of hope for some improvement in 2018.