With Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror and snow descending on a solid part of the country, law school admissions officers are back to file reading and are pushing full speed ahead to the big wave of national decisions that typically occurs in mid-December. So let’s wake up from our tryptophan dreams, turn away from our online shopping, and take a few minutes to check out what’s happening around the law school admissions world.

Apps – Totally Normal!

And thus—after weeks and months of tracking apps!—have we reached a momentous point. Apps are basically on par with this same time last year!

Here’s where we were when we last posted two weeks ago, per LSAC’s Current Volume Summaries report:

And here are the numbers as of November 27:

Applicants have now just nudged past their totals on the same date last year. Meanwhile, applications are down 6.5% but this represents a half-application per applicant—last year on this date, the average student had submitted 6.45 apps while the average student this year has submitted 5.96 apps. We can chalk this differential up to the increased number of post-SFFA statements—no doubt that it’s taking applicants longer to write more statements and/or they’ve just decided to apply to one or two fewer schools this year because they’d rather not write more statements. Basically, it’s a wash!

But while it’s a wash at the macro level, the micro level still has a few surprises. Per the Current Volume Summary, the greatest decline in apps by LSAT score is among the T14-score brackets.

The more time that goes by with this trend in place, the more we stare at our computer screens, stroke our chins, and think, “Hmmmmmm.” If this trend were to continue, it’s possible that some T14s may lower their LSAT targets for the year. If this were to happen, we would see it rather distinctly materialize on their lawschooldata chart. The T14s who have been making admit offers thus far—a list that includes Berkeley, Michigan, Duke, and Virginia—appear to be holding their median targets from last year, but it’s early and we’ll keep watching this trend.

November LSATs

The next big benchmark for applications will come in a few days when the November LSAT scores are released. As we can see on LSAC’s Test Registrants and Test Takers report, November registrations were big.

Everything that we just wrote before—apps are flat! T14s may need to recalibrate their targets!—could be violently thrown out the window by the next time we check in on app numbers. Since the November test tends to skew towards repeat test takers, the key things we will be watching are: 1) whether there’s a big enough cohort of students who increase their scores, and 2) if that cohort increased their scores enough to change their strategy to shake things up. It won’t be a big deal if a bunch of students nudge their scores from a 162 to a 163. But it would be interesting if a number of students sitting on a 169 suddenly are the proud owners of 172s.

Upcoming ABA Reports

Another big benchmark that occurs in early December is the release of the ABA 509 Reports. The 509 Reports are named thusly because of ABA Standard 509, which dictates that all law schools have to release a standard report to the public each year. From the perspective of prospective students (and this is a good way for us to remind ourselves about the difference between “perspective” and “prospective”…), this can let you calibrate your expectations one more time before you submit your applications.

“But wait!” you may be saying. “Didn’t I already see all of the school’s relevant information on their website when their class showed up for orientation?”

You probably did! However, the lock-in date for ABA reporting is October 5th. The class that arrived for orientation may look a touch different from the class that was still enrolled on October 5th.

Further, not every school is so kind as to publish their incoming class profile. Stanford Law, for instance, never publishes a class profile. They just update a page with their ABA Report every year.

Additionally, some demographic info changes every year. If you’re not an American citizen or permanent resident and you’re trying to get a sense of which schools are actively enrolling non-Americans; if you’re a GRE-only applicant and you want to understand which schools enroll more GRE-only students; or if you’re a student of color who wants to know how many students enrolled last year who share your background, the 509 Reports are the official word.

We’ll keep this on our radar in the coming weeks and you’ll no doubt hear a celebratory hoot when the ABA’s page goes live.

First Big Wave of Admits – It’s Coming

While some schools have started admitting students, the first big national wave typically doesn’t happen until mid-December. This is simply because of the timing of travel season (which wraps up in early November), the time it takes to update websites and publications for admitted students, and the challenges of coordinating admit committees (which usually involve faculty and lemme tell you about trying to coordinate law school faculty…).

An additional wrinkle this year is that many schools are finally transitioning to LSAC’s newest operating system for law school admissions. The previous OS—named ACES 2—had been the trusty Honda Civic of the admissions world for more than a decade. It wasn’t flashy. No one wrote songs about it. But it got you from Point A to Point B. The newest OS—named Unite—has been on a slow rollout over the past three years. There have been delays due to COVID and because of tech issues. It’s more of a red Corvette—it’s flashy, but it is also apt to run you right down to the ground. That’s how 200+ students mistakenly get admitted to a law school.

Some law schools held on to ACES 2 for dear life, but LSAC finally made everyone complete their transitions to Unite this past summer. As such, some decisions may come out a smidge later than usual as this wave of schools ensure that they know how to run this system as smooth as a limousine…

before they start admitting anyone.

On-Campus Recruitment Events

With file-reading season ramping up and the semester winding down, admissions offices aren’t hosting as many events as they did just a few weeks ago. Be sure to continue checking out our page of the few law school-specific recruitment events on the horizon. Of particular note for the coming week:

  • Michigan Law will have a session about Financial Aid on December 6.
  • Yale Law will host their next online open house also on December 6.
  • Harvard Law will host another JD Admissions Q&A on December 7.