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Survey finds increase in law school applicants in response to political climate



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Located on Indiana Avenue, Lowell E. Baier Hall contains the Maurer School of Law, which is home to many law classes that IU offers. Emily Putman Buy Photos

Law school applications are on the rise, and 87 percent of law school admissions officers surveyed in a 2018 study cited the political climate as a significant factor.

The survey conducted by Kaplan Test Prep included 121 law schools.

In a separate survey conducted by Kaplan, 45 percent of prelaw students said the political climate affected their decision to apply to law school, which is an increase from the amount of students citing politics in past years.  

“In the past year — after several years of decline and stagnation — there has been a fairly dramatic increase in the number of students applying to law school,” said Jeff Thomas, Kaplan Test Prep’s executive director of admissions programs.

The 10 percent increase is the largest in more than a decade, Thomas said.

“Historically, there has been an increase in law school applicants after there have been political power changes in the White House,” he said.

Sophomore Emma Williams decided to follow the prelaw track during the 2016 election cycle. She is a member of Phi Alpha Delta, a pre-law fraternity at IU.

“Honestly I was just so mad at what was happening and how nothing was getting done,” she said. “I thought, ‘If the elected officials of this country can’t get things done, then I’ll just have to do it myself.’”

The Kaplan survey found 57 percent of students surveyed want to use their law degree to advocate for issues they care about.

Thomas advised students to approach the career holistically and not for any lone reason.

“Students need to understand that you go to law school to become an attorney,” he said. “They should be introspective in knowing that they are signing up for a career that is practicing law, and that should be their primary motivation in deciding to go to law school.”

Many students question whether political activism is an appropriate topic to include in a law school application, but Thomas said that political passion is an acceptable subject in applying.

“The goal of law school is to train folks to be great thinkers and strategic readers and highly logical, and this discourse is a very common occurrence in the law school classroom, and that is expected and appreciated,” Thomas said.

While students shouldn’t apply only for political reasons, Thomas said, this bump means that law schools may see a wider array of applicants from different backgrounds.

Williams said this was one of the reasons she sees the bump as a positive.

“I think it’s awesome because more women, and especially more women of color, are now getting into the mix, which is so cool and has never been seen before,” she said.

The American Bar Association recorded more women than men in law school in 2018.

Thomas noted that the increase in applicants does not mean that law schools are increasing the size of their classes. Because of this, the law school application process is likely more competitive than it has been in past years.

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