2019: Law School Applications Fall 1 Percent, Enrollments Flat

By October 2019, there were 36,983 enrollees from the applicant pool at 197 ABA-accredited law schools not in Puerto Rico. This is down 67 (-0.2 percent) from 37,050 in October 2018. Three law schools, Valparaiso, Whittier, and Arizona Summit, appear on the ABA’s required disclosures Web site and spreadsheets, but they are just placeholders. Arizona Summit had 17 enrollees last year. La Verne and Thomas Jefferson do have 509 reports, even though they announced their closures.

Moving to applications, these 197 law schools received 375,468 applications to all their programs, down 3,679 (-1.0 percent) from 379,147. The median law school accepted 47.1 percent of its applicants, but that’s only down from 47.9 percent in 2018. Here’s an image of the dispersion; overall, they’re trending downward, signifying increased selectivity.

With fewer applications and flat enrollments, the analysis of application distribution becomes more salient. Once again, applicants trended toward more interest in some law schools than others. The Gini coefficient for applications among all 197 of these law schools is now 0.444, which is negligibly higher than last year (0.436). By contrast, back in 2011 it was only 0.357. (You can read about how to interpret Gini coefficients mean here.)

As with previous years, below is a modified Lorenz curve, a line that typically measures the cumulative distribution of a quantity in order from the recipient of the smallest amount to the largest. Usually researchers use it to illustrate the distribution of income among households. I’ve modified the Lorenz curve according to the U.S. News and World Report rankings for the previous year because the rankings are an independent measurement of law-school eliteness as seen by LSAT takers and applicants roughly at the time that they apply. Here is what I could cobble together going back to 2011.

The U.S. News rankings can be quite fluid year to year the further down its list one goes, and in the previous two years there’s been some shifting into and out of the top 50, next 50, and 101-150. It appears that the average top-50 law school received 2.4 percent less applications than in the 2018 cycle, but in the more static top 14, the average was plus 4.9 percent. The next 50 saw a 1.3 percent decline on average, but the remaining didn’t change much at all.

Information on this topic from prior years:

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