Election spurred law school applicants, study shows

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Photo Credit: Rachel Tyler | Daily Texan Staff

The 2016 presidential election had a major impact on the decision of nearly a third of this year’s law school applicants across the nation, a Kaplan Test Prep study concluded last month. The University’s law school was no exception.

Maria Rivera, assistant dean for admissions at UT’s School of Law, said there were more than 5,596 applications for fall 2018, a 24 percent increase from the previous year’s 4,400 applications. This is much higher than the national average increase of 8.8 percent, according to the Law School Admissions Council, the governing body for law schools and the administrator of the Law School Admission Test.

Rivera said a spike in fall 2018 due to the election makes sense, because applications take several months to prepare.

“By the time that folks decide they want to attend law school, and then take the LSAT — you have to take time to prepare for it,” Rivera said. “The biggest impact (of the election) was definitely for fall 2018.”

The nationwide survey was conducted in December and February of this year and asked 537 pre–law students who took a Kaplan LSAT course if they were inspired to go to law school because of the current political climate. Thirty-two percent said they were.

Jeff Thomas, Kaplan’s executive director for pre–law admissions, said beginning in 2011, there was a double-digit decline of law school applicants. Thomas said this is the first major uptake he’s seen since then.

The survey answers a question legal experts have been asking for months now, Thomas said.

“It gives more of an explanation for what has been a surprising trend,” Thomas said. “It’s just a really interesting statistic.”

Although applications are increasing, the number of open seats in law schools will not change, Thomas said.

Rivera said Texas Law aims to graduate 270 to 300 students each year, and has a 25 percent acceptance rate.

Rivera said another factor in the spike of Texas applications may be the recent U.S. News and World Report ranking, which now lists UT law as one of the top 15 best law schools in the country. This boost may have prompted more out-of-state residents to apply as well, Rivera said.

However, Rivera said the 2016 presidential election has shown up in applications, with many applicants discussing policy issues and the idea of being more involved in the legal process.

“All across the political spectrum, whether liberal or conservative, I think (the election) made people realize that lawyers have a unique role to play in our society,” Rivera said. “They have a skill set and tool set that allows them to effect change.”

Savannah Kumar, first-year law student, said the election didn’t affect her desire to pursue a law degree, or the interest of her fellow classmates who came to law school with an issue they were passionate about beforehand.

“Some students felt particularly inspired to learn the law after the election,” Kumar said. “(But) if you already cared about human rights issues, those issues were threatened before
the election.”