Law School Application Surge Means ‘Nightmare’ Contest for Slots

Preston Fregia has wanted to be a lawyer since he was 11. For a year the Chicago native woke up at dawn every day to study for the Law School Admission Test before heading to his full-time job as a recruiter for a staffing company.

Then the pandemic struck, and lots of other people decided they wanted to go to law school too.

The number of applications to U.S. law schools for admission this year has surged 28% from last year, according to the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), a nonprofit group that administers the test. Applications this year were at their highest level since 2011, and that’s creating heartache for students facing more competition and higher scores. It’s also complicating admissions at law schools, which in some cases have resorted to asking accepted students to defer.

Part of the increase can be credited to the traditional attractiveness of graduate school in an economic downturn, since much of the explosion in applications took place during the pandemic’s plunge in employment. But admissions counselors are pointing to other factors, including a focus on policing and the justice system since last year’s murder of George Floyd, the energizing effect of an election and, simply, the lack of other things to do while the nation was locked down to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

These factors allowed, or forced, law schools to be “much, much pickier,” said Anna Ivey, founder of Ivey Consulting, a college and law school admissions consulting firm, and author of “The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions.”