A look at the 2013-2014 law school admissions cycle

The 2013-2014 law school admissions cycle isn’t over yet, but we can already discern a few prominent characteristics that separate this year from years past. As employment prospects become more and more of an important factor in law school applicants’ decision-making process, a direct mandate from the dean’s office has more schools focusing on aspects of the application that correlate to the ability to find employment.

This manifests most obviously in the increasing importance of work experience on the resume. Since applicants with one or more years of full-time, post-college employment tend to be more likely to do well in OCI and secure employment at graduation, this cycle admissions committees have been favoring applicants with this experience even more so than in the past.

Another way admissions committees have been determining who is most likely to successfully navigate their job prospects is by interviewing more applicants than ever before. Whereas in past years interviews were relatively rare, with only a few schools interviewing applicants at all and most of those doing so sparingly, this year there have been more interviews at more law schools. A number of schools, including at the top of the food-chain, began interviewing applicants this year or increased their number of interviews.

Yield protection (commonly known as “YP”) has also reared its ugly head this cycle to an unprecedented degree. YP is the practice by admissions committees of wait listing or even rejecting applicants with high credentials for the purpose of ensuring a higher yield – which in turns translates to a better selectivity number and USNWR considerations. If a committee believes that an applicant is unlikely to attend their school if accepted — either because they are overqualified, or they don’t show any particular interest in the school, or most often a combination of the two — sometimes they will refrain from accepting this applicant in order to keep down the ratio of acceptances to matriculants. Many times, the applicant may find themselves offered a spot on the WL as a way for the school to gauge the applicant’s genuine interest prior to offering admission. The practice has been more prominent in this cycle than in years past.

This cycle has also seen several extended deadlines, and likely, less of a selectivity detriment to those who apply late cycle. Many schools extended their application deadlines due to inclement weather cancellations (or perhaps to boost their sheer number of applications) of the December LSAT, allowing applicants with first-time February LSATs when they previously did not. There also was a surge of acceptances very early in the cycle, which has translated to a rather sustained lull in admits from a number of schools mid-cycle.

All in all, law school admissions is still an applicant’s market, and relatively lower numbers will still see greater success than in years past, but schools do seem to be increasingly concerned with employability, which translates to a slightly more softs-focused approach than has been previously seen. High numbers can still expect success, but borderline numbers should work on interview skills and getting real work experience for the highest chance of

Looking ahead, there will still be more losers among schools than winners in an admissions market that is still down. Scholarship hardball negotiations from schools should be on the rise as revenue dollars from tuition plus substantial spending last cycle should cap the amount of remission many schools are willing or able to offer. Some schools have already introduced scholarships that automatically diminish after the 1L year, and/or stipends for a summer in lieu of larger aggregate scholarships. The big question is, is the slight (1.1%) increase in test-takers on the February administration of the LSAT a harbinger of the fact we have hit the bottom of this extended down trend in applications?

A good number of eyes are on the June 9th LSAT, including ours.