The volume of law school applications this year is running about the same as last year’s record level, say admissions officers and the Law School Admission Council (LSAC).

“It’s still early in the cycle, but in terms of sheer volume, we’re seeing numbers that have been about the same for the past two years,” says Anita Walton, director of admissions for Rutgers School of Law in Newark, NJ.

A spokesman for the Law School Admission Council, a nonprofit corporation whose members are more than 200 law schools, says numbers of those applying for law school so far this year are up about 1.1 percent over last year. “But that’s an almost negligible increase,” said the spokesperson.

Walton says the economy often has an influence on the numbers of law school applicants.

“It goes in cycles. When people can’t find jobs, they may choose to enter law school. There’s a lot of versatility with a law degree,” she says. She adds most observers view the US economy now as neither bust nor boom, but with moderate job growth.

Mark Hill, senior admission officer for the Duke University School of Law, says the number of applicants seems to be “a little bit ahead of last year.”

“One trend we’ve noticed is that applications tend to come in earlier,” he added.

The entire law school admission process underwent significant changes in the 1980s when the number of applicants exploded, say admissions counselors. The two most significant changes: a shift in “rolling admissions” and the lengthening of the admission process, sometimes from October all the way through the following spring.

In 2002, there was also a spurt of law school applications often attributed to the foundering economy. The Law School Admissions Council reported that year there was an increase of 17% of applicants over the previous year.

Figures from the LSACF show the number of applicants often goes up and down depending on the year. For example, in 1994-95, there were 78,400 applicants, but that number fell to 66,700 in 1997-87. But in the past decade, the number of applicants overall has grown. Through the fall of this year, the LSAC figures show 100,000 applicants, compared to 78,400 in 1994-95.

Typically, 35 to 50% of applicants come in prior to January 1, says Renee Post, an admissions consultant and former Associate Director of Admissions at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

This year’s group of applicants in their make-up seems similar to previous years, say admissions counselors.

“I’d say our applicants are about the same as in the past,” says Mary Bartlett, assistant director of admissions, George Washington Law School. That means about evenly divided between men and women.

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