Applicant Considerations in an "Up" Cycle

This cycle will be more competitive than the last for many law school applicants. Indeed, we thought this might be the case way back in March and the June (up 10% for first-time test takers) and October (up 7.1 %) data coupled with conversations we have had with numerous law schools (almost all up) would seem to put an exclamation point on it. More applicants ostensibly equates to more competition (a bit on that potentially not being the case soon), but what does this mean? More precisely, how can you use this knowledge to your advantage?

As always, LSAT + LSAC computed GPA will rule the day. But a blog on “get a better LSAT score and a 4.0″ doesn’t address THIS cycle as much as it is just universally important and readily known. And, as in every cycle, you will need a buttoned up application. Proof read, be strategic in your essay topics, and try not to submit writing that is overly pedantic or bumptious (like this sentence!). Again all of this is true every cycle. Given these constants, THIS cycle presents an opportunity that the previous did not. And you can absolutely control it. I’ll explain with an observation.

My former dean at Vanderbilt and Washington University in St. Louis told me once that he could tell who would win a moot court competition within 5 minutes of walking into the trial room, before the competition began. It wasn’t the team from the best school, the sharpest dressed team, or the team that had impressive charts of evidence. It was always the team that seemed excited to be there. That attitude alone was so important to the entire process of moot court competition that the team that had it would invariably come out on top.

Similarly, over the last 16 years I have observed the phenomena that the longer an applicant has to wait for a decision, the more likely that decision will be positive if the person waiting is enthusiastic and ebullient. Why is this? As in all things admissions you are not in a vacuum. The more others have to wait, the more agitated some get. And that is when the terse, hostile and aggressive lines of communication to law school admissions offices start flowing. Emails like “Dean Spivey, I just wanted to let you know I have already been admitted to 5 schools so what is the hold up with yours?” ….”or “A higher ranked law school has admitted me already so I don’t see why yours has not.” These are real emails and, at times, pervasive emails that admissions offices were bombarded with during the go-go years when decisions went out more slowly. Which brings me to the next crux: decisions will likely be slower this year for a number of schools. As excited as law schools are about the uptick in applications, they will be equally restrained about admitting until they see real and concrete data. Know this date: early December LSAC will supply granular cycle data that will look much like this from last cycle (except up not down!).  It came to us Dec. 5th last year and looked like this. Once law schools (and us) get this data this year things should pick up. But until then I think you will see a number of schools admitting at a more measured pace. Important NOTE: So be patient! I asked an admissions director to proofread this for me who asked me to plea for patience. There is no need to manufacture reasons to contact an admissions office and certainly no need to call for updates on your file. Yes visit if you can (it shows interest!) and yes feel free to call or email with legitimate questions. (If you have illegitimate questions, you can reach out to us!) Just keep in mind that in every communication you have with them they are taking note.

What is the good news? Class sizes have shrunk beyond where most law schools can economically maintain them — meaning more applications doesn’t necessarily mean a more difficult cycle for all schools. Indeed, some likely schools are just going to use the extra applicants to bring back their numbers to levels that are sustainable, and thus they may not shoot for a higher LSAT or GPA versus last year. That is a decision that each school will have to make at the dean level and nothing applicants can control, of course. Again, though, what you can control is how you present yourself to a law school if that wait is longer than you would like and if others are grumbling. Feel free to call one of us if you can’t endure it any longer but in every communication with a law school be excited about the school  and professionally positive about yourself. I can’t emphasize enough how much this will matter for some people right at the margins!

Happy Halloween, see you all when we get more data!