Law School Enrollment Steady In 2023; Applications Are Up For 2024

According to the latest data from the American Bar Association (ABA), total enrollment in ABA-approved law schools remained largely stable in 2023 compared to the prior year, and law-school applications are up for 2024.

Enrollment in Juris Doctor (J.D.) programs at the 196 institutions approved by the ABA to grant the degree was 116,897 in Fall 2023, an increase of 170 students (+.15%) over 2022. An additional 23,032 students were enrolled in law school programs other than the J.D. (e.g., LL.M., masters, and certificate programs), a decline of 1,102 students (-4.6%) from 24,134 students in these programs in 2022.

Total law school enrollment for Fall 2023 was 139,929, a .66% decrease from the prior year.

These enrollment data are taken from the annual questionnaire ABA-approved law schools file with the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar’s Managing Director’s Office.

First-Year Enrollment

Law schools saw 37,886 students begin their J.D. studies in 2023 (including the fall semester plus the preceding winter/spring/summer terms for schools with multiple starts). This represents a decrease of 174 students (.46% ) from 2022.

More schools reported equal or larger first-year classes (105) than smaller first-year classes (91) for the 2023 cycle. That reversed the pattern from 2022, when law schools with smaller classes (150) exceeded those with equal or larger classes (46) by more than 3:1.

First-Year Student Characteristics

Of the 37,886 first-year students, 21,307 (56%) were women, 16,028 were men (42%) and 551 students(1.5%) identified as another gender or did not report their gender. Women law students have outnumbered men since 2016.

The overall first-year class included 13,273 people of color (35%), the summary designation for racial minorities used by the ABA; that’s roughly a .5% increase over the representation of people of color in first-year law classes in 2022.

Ten Largest Law Schools

More than 30 law schools in the U.S. enroll more than 1,000 students. Here are the top ten based on total enrollment, with the number of J.D. students in parentheses:

Georgetown University 3030 (2079)

University of Arizona 2519 (376)

New York University 2094 (1367)

Harvard University 2031 (1797)

George Washington University 1870 (1679)

Columbia University 1748 (1410)

Texas A&M University 1683 (447)

American University 1635 (1231)

Arizona State University 1600 (793)

Fordham University 1575 (1358)

Applications Increase For 2024

According to new data from the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), so far in the 2024 admissions cycle, 28,982 students have applied to ABA-approved law schools, a 4% increase compared to 2023. However, the total number of applications to date has decreased about 3%, meaning that while more students are applying they are doing so to fewer law schools. Compared to 2021, applicants and applications in 2024 are down about 1.5% and about 8%, respectively, according to the LSAC.

The LSAC’s data compare applications for enrollment in 2024 that have been received through Dec. 19 with applications for enrollment in 2023 received by the same date in 2022. So far this cycle, 105 of the 196 law schools have had a decrease in applications over 2023. Last year at this time, the number of applicants to law school constituted about 43% of what ended up as the final applicant count.

Of particular interest in the first admissions cycle since the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, is how many students of color are applying to law school.

Applicants in nearly all ethnic categories have increased, according to LSAC data released on December 19. Black and Hispanic/Latino applicants were both up 8.5%; Asian applicants increased 4.7%, and white applicants increased 1.3%. The only ethnicity that did not see an increase in applicants was Puerto Rican, with a very slight decrease from 663 to 651 applicants.

Commenting on the diversity of the applicant pool, Susan Krinsky, executive vice president for operations and chief of staff at the LSAC, told the ABA Journal. “We’re very pleased to see that. We’re really delighted that the feared discouragement seems not to have happened.”

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