New survey suggests link between law school application increase, political climate

Brynne Herzfeld

A nationwide increase in law school applications could be linked to the political climate, according to Kaplan Test Prep survey results. 

The results of the 2018 survey were released last month and showed 87 percent of law school admissions officers cited the political climate as a key factor in the increase of applications in the past cycle. In addition, 45 percent of pre-law students reported the political climate impacting their application decision. 

“We saw a 10 percent increase (in applications) last year,” said Jeff Thomas, executive director of admissions programs at Kaplan Test Prep. “That’s the greatest year-over-year increase of applicants to law school that we’ve seen in over a decade.”

Mathiew Le, assistant dean for admissions and financial aid for UT’s law school, said more students are talking about how the political climate prompted them to consider law school in their applications.


“I think what this particular presidency has highlighted is the role that lawyers can actually play,” Le said. “People actually saw lawyers at the border and actually doing substantive work. I think that planted the seed.”

As a student from Del Rio, Texas, a border town, law student Ruben Cardenas said the election of President Donald Trump helped solidify his decision to attend law school so he can help his community.

“Every time I turn on the TV, there’s something about the border, and a lot of it I believe is just not true,” Cardenas said. “I know a lot of people back home just don’t have the voice that they want. I can be a voice for my community.”

Cardenas said even those who don’t hail from the border are searching for ways to help those along the border who need legal assistance, as he saw at an event where 70 UT law students did pro bono work at the border in January. 

“It was interesting to see so many wanting to help and so many wanting to get involved and to use their services and their knowledge to help the people along the border,” Cardenas said. “So that was a good thing.”

However, Le points out that because the evidence linking the political climate to an application increase is anecdotal, it is hard to pinpoint the cause of the increase.

“(The link) is really kind of difficult to capture in a data way,” Le said. “I think it’s a worthy question to ask prospective students.”