The Trump Bump continues?

Is Trump the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to law school admissions?

It sure seems that way. 

According to a Kaplan Test Prep’s 2018 law school admissions officers survey, an overwhelming 87 percent report that the current political climate in the U.S. was a significant factor in this past cycle’s application increase. This includes 30 percent who describe it as a “very significant” factor. These were the results from a phone survey which included 121 law schools.

(Who are the 13 percent not saying it's a not significant factor?) 

This politics-driven application bump may continue, according to a separate Kaplan survey of pre-law students. Forty-five percent say that the current political climate impacted their decision to apply to law school, a marked increase from the 32 percent who answered this way in a Kaplan survey released last year.  Overall, 57 percent of those surveyed say they plan to use their law degree to advocate for political or public policy issues they care about.

In these surveys, Kaplan doesn't mention President Trump by name. Instead it uses the phrase "domestic political climate." 

Here's the exact wording for pre-law students for instance:

"Did the current domestic political climate impact your decision to apply to law school?"

 - Yes, significantly

 - Yes, somewhat

 - No

Asked why Kaplan doesn't just come out and ask if Trump is a factor, Russell Schaffer, Kaplan's senior communications manager, said: "We used the term 'political climate' to broaden the scope of the question, as many pre-law students consider their reasons to attend law school as issues-driven, not personality-driven."

However, he added that Trump, as president, has a "great deal" to do with the current political climate. 

So that Trump Bump? Yes, it's appear to be a Trump Bump. 

(Or — who knows — maybe it's also a Pelosi Push ... A Schumer Spike ... ) 

Law school enrollment did go up for this year's entering class, with first-year enrollment up by 2.9 percent. And some schools saw significant increases, such as the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State Univesity in Phoenix, which saw a 35 percent spike for this year's class. Up until this year, enrollment had been dropping for years.  

While law school admissions officers largely agree that politics is a major reason for their reversal in application volume fortunes, they offer words of caution to pre-law students who say politics is their main reason to attend law school. According to Kaplan, they said:

   – “Be careful about that, because the current political climate will change. Instead of worrying about that, focus more on the problems that you want to solve. Be specific about the problems in society or the corporate world or whatever you want to solve, and think about how best to do that.”

   – “I would caution them that there are lots of ways to be involved politically, and being a lawyer is a really serious commitment to a career. While lawyers certainly contribute and make change, it’s also a big decision financially and in terms of time, so they should put some thought into it and possible other ways to make change before jumping in.”

   – “I would tell them to make sure they find a program that specifically outlines and addresses that type of law their interested in. Do an internship focusing on that to make sure that’s the avenue they want to go down.”

“Throughout 2017 and into 2018, there were significant increases in both LSAT takers and law school applications over the previous admissions cycle, which has fueled speculation about how much impact the political climate had on the law school admissions landscape. We now have an answer: according to both law schools and aspiring lawyers it’s meaningful. Politics is good for business,” said Jeff Thomas, executive director of admissions programs, Kaplan Test Prep. “As law school admissions officers point out, caring about politics alone is generally not a strong enough reason to attend law school, as politics changes quickly.  We continue to advise pre-law students to be introspective about their reasons for applying and future-looking about what they plan to do with a JD in the long term.”

Thomas points out that although the number of LSATs taken in the last testing cycle was up double digits compared to the previous year, indications are that for the 2018-2019 cycle, that number is likely to be flat. “Perhaps the sugar rush for applying to law school is over due to reasons outside of politics, but applications will continue to be at elevated levels compared to just a few year ago,” he said. 

 

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