Tuesday, September 17, 2019
A few short years ago, law schools were falling out of favor with young Americans looking for a route to affluence, influence, or both. Business schools, on the other hand, were attracting more students than ever. ***This year, the number of applicants to U.S. law schools is up an estimated 3.2%, after rising 8.1% last year.Still, a law degree is rightly no longer seen as quite the path to a secure and remunerative career that it used to be, and a lot of today’s law school applicants seem less interested in their future earnings profiles than in using their legal skills to fight the power, or something like that. In one survey conducted by test-prep provider Kaplan, 87% of law-school admissions officers said “the current domestic political climate” was a significant factor in 2018’s applications increase. In another, 45% of students taking Kaplan LSAT prep courses this February said the political climate affected their decision to apply for law school, up from 32% a year earlier.
In legal circles this phenomenon has come to be called the “Trump bump,” which sounds about right. More precisely, with young people and college graduates both tending to give the president low approval ratings, it seems likely that most of these political-climate-inspired applicants are inspired by opposition to Trump and his policies. Also, all of this year’s and most of last year’s applicant gains were driven by women, who as a rule like the current president a lot less than men do. As recently as 2013, women were still a minority among applicants to U.S. law schools. This year they accounted for 55%. So U.S. law schools will for at least the next few years be churning out more smart, politically engaged, probably left-leaning lawyers, most of them women.