Politics are continuing to push some would-be lawyers into law school.
Fully 84% of the 101 law school admission officials recently surveyed by Kaplan Test Prep said that the current political climate was a “significant factor” in the 3% increase in applicants during the previous admissions cycle. Among those respondents, 26% described politics as “very significant” in the growing interest in law school. Meanwhile, 41% of the more than 400 pre-law students Kaplan surveyed separately said that politics impacted their decision to pursue a Juris Doctor.
Each of those metrics shows slight declines from the previous year. Last year, 87% of admissions officials cited politics as fueling more interest in law school, while 45% of pre-law students said it was influencing their educational choices. Still, the newest results indicate that upheaval in Washington is having a multiyear impact on the law school admissions landscape.
“It’s getting harder and harder for people to come together over basic policies, and as a result, those with less influence are being forgotten,” one pre-law respondent said. “I want to be a lawyer in large part to bring a voice back to these individuals and fight for equality under the law.”
Kaplan decided to start surveying admissions officials and pre-law students about the influence of politics in decision-making after seeing speculation in 2017 that the political climate was prompting more people to consider law school, said Jeff Thomas, executive director of admissions programs at Kaplan Test Prep. The number of people applying to law school in 2018 spiked nearly 9%.
“We now have an answer: the impact remains significant and appears to have staying power,” Thomas said of the influence of politics in law school admissions. “As law school admissions officers point out, caring about politics alone is not a strong enough reason to attend law school. Your career in law will outlive any particular presidency. A term in the House lasts two years, law school lasts three years, and a presidency can be as short as four years, but your career will last decades.”
Hence, Kaplan advises students to consider their long-term career goals before applying, he added.
The latest survey results also show that a large portion of aspiring law students want to attend a school with like-minded classmates. Among the respondents, 46% said it’s important to go to a school where fellow students generally share their political and social beliefs.