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With Less Competition, Is Now the Time to Apply to Law School?

Predicting the future of law schools is a bit like predicting the weather.

Everybody hopes for sunny skies, but meteorology is a science not a hope. And when the clouds come, we often look for silver linings to shade us from disappointment.

So in the dreary climate of declining law school applications, there is some hope if not science. Look at it this way: there is less competition to get into law school now.

Time to Apply?

U.S. News & World Report, which also reports annual law school rankings, says it is time to apply to law school because there are fewer students competing for seats.

"For aspiring lawyers, this creates a window of opportunity to apply to law school when competition for a spot at a reach school is less intense than it is under ordinary circumstances," the magazine says.

There is some science behind the report, as new law school rankings show that the average number of applicants at the top 14 schools dropped by 20.6 percent between 2008 and 2016. The average number at lower-ranked schools plunged 52.3 percent during the same time period.

It is not really news that law schools have been bleeding -- and some have been dying -- from declining applications. The problem started about seven years ago, as the recession played out at law schools across the country.

Relative Humility

Fewer students applied to law school, and many schools adjusted by lowering admission standards. According to U.S. News, the top 14 schools had a "slightly higher" acceptance rate in 2016 than they did in 2006. But acceptance rates at lower-ranked schools reportedly rose more than 20 percentage points during that time.

Overall, however, law school numbers are down. Fewer applicants, fewer students, and even fewer law schools. So students should apply now to law school because?

There was an uptick in LSAT's in June 2017. It was almost 20 percent higher than last year. Experts, who predicted more competition years ago, say it means the weather window for less competition may be closing.

"That one data point of June 2017 LSAT aside, we are still in a time where there are far fewer applicants to law school than there used to be and students should absolutely be encouraged to shoot high," says Jeff Thomas, executive direct of prelaw programs at Kaplan Test Prep.

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