Law school enrollment is up, according to new ABA data
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In the past year, much as been said about a "Trump bump" for law schools, referencing an idea that more people are interested in law school since Donald Trump was elected president. Some support for the theory may be found in ABA data released Friday.
There’s been a 2.9 percent increase of first-year students at ABA-accredited schools between 2017 and 2018 and a 1.2 percent increase in law students overall. A greater percentage increase was in non-JD enrollment, which includes LLMs, masters and certificate programs; there was an 8.2 percent increase in those programs.
The data released by the ABA comes from Standard 509 Information Reports, named after Standard 509, which requires reports from accredited law schools to be collected by the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. Besides class size information, 509 Reports include data about law schools’ LSAT and undergraduate GPA scores, tuition costs and financial aid. The 509 Reports can be found on the section’s required disclosure page, which also lists employment and bar passage outcomes.
Enrollment for the fall 2018 term was 111,561; 110,176 were enrolled for 2017, according to an overview from the ABA’s legal ed section. There were 18,523 students enrolled in non-JD programs in 2018, compared to 17,117 in 2017.
For 2018, the law schools reported a total of 38,390 1Ls, compared to 37,320 in 2017. Of the 203 ABA-accredited schools, 122 saw 1L class sizes that either remained level from 2017 or increased in size.
Among the law schools with some of the largest first-year classes are Harvard Law School, which listed 566 first-year students on its 509 Report. Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown University Law Center and George Washington University Law School, listed 581 and 564 first-year students in their 509 reports, respectively.
And Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School lists a total of 541 first-year students on its 509 Report for 2018. Following a 2017 noncompliance finding regarding admissions for Cooley Law in 2017—and the law school suing the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar regarding the finding—Cooley Law was found to be in the compliance in March. The parties filed a dismissal stipulation in October, which was granted by the court.
Some schools with the smallest first-year classes are Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law, which according to its 509 Report has a total of 51 first-year students, and Virginia’s Appalachian School of Law, which lists 50 first-year students. Appalachian received notice in 2017 that it was out of compliance with various standards regarding programming and admissions standards. Thomas Jefferson School of Law—which was placed on probation by the ABA in November 2017—lists 59 1Ls on its 509 Report.