Several law schools in America are having a challenge, partly caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. With a lot of students already admitted for the fall, some are turning to incentives to delay enrolling.
The Law School Admission Council (LSAC), in charge of the LSAT, did a survey of 200 Law schools in America. Out of these, 190 of them saw a rise in applications in the course of the pandemic. This is expected, as in periods of economic recessions or contractions, many take interest in law and various professional studies. This is usually because of their jobs being disrupted.
Besides the effect of the economy in increased applications, experts are also pointing to the presidential election and protests over social justice in the recent year as also having an effect.
Something else that has changed over the pandemic is regarding the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The Law School Admission Council reported high scores of 175 to180 doubling in 2021 from 2020. The following range of 170 to 174 also increased by 50%. This improved performance has been attributed to the lockdowns, which have offered much study time and shorter test versions, with reduced sections compared to previous tests.
Mike Spivey, the Spivey Consulting founder, had this to say, “I do not believe the test was simple, when you are at home, anxiety is much lower.”
This led to a surplus of top applicants to the law schools. The schools were unaware of how many students would agree to the offer once they were accepted.
To reduce the burden, several schools have emailed the accepted students to induce them to delay enrolling. Some by promising to keep their scholarships and others even with monetary benefits.
Duke School of Law has promised students who agree to attend next year $5,000. The University of Colorado, however, did not succeed with the same attempt as only two were up for it. Nevertheless, it was able to manage as a number decided not to enroll due to other grounds. This left it with around 180 students.
“If the situation had gotten scarier, the clear option would have been to raise the bonus,” said the assistant dean of admissions and financial aid, Kristine Jackson.
Columbia Law School also offered $30,000 to students who agreed to defer, to join a newly created Exploration Fellowship. It gave priority to fresh graduates and provided career placement assistance.
This however did not cut it for Molly Lu, a 23-year-old student from Toronto. She aims for a job at a leading corporate law firm. This can offer a beginner’s income of up to $200,000, in contrast to what she is currently earning at a swimming pool supply store.
Molly Lu had this to say, “The benefits I will have to forego from a year of being a lawyer as compared to one of selling pool floats is a lot to be overcome.”
Over-enrollment for students not only means crowded lecture halls, strained professors and overwhelmed administrative staff, but also a law school experience that is diluted. This can also result in limited job opportunities once they graduate in 2024 due to a crowded labour market.
“It will not be a big deal if there is a solid economy, ” said Mike Spivey. “However, if the economy is weak, then it will be a challenge.”