As admissions officers once again pour over this year’s thousands of applications to the Yale Law School, they say the volume of students applying for the class of 2009 is almost identical to last year’s — a finding consistent with national trends that show law school admissions numbers, after several years of increases, reaching a plateau or decreasing slightly.
Last year, the Yale Law School received 3,783 admissions and this year, 3,781. While the application deadline for Yale was Feb. 1, decisions on admissions will not be announced until April, administrators said. According to American Bar Association-approved statistics compiled by the Law Schools Admissions Council, in 2004, the Yale Law School accepted 241 students, 194 of whom decided to matriculate.
Yale Law School spokesperson Janet Conroy said the Law School has been very pleased with this year’s applicant pool.
“We are in the enviable position of having more highly qualified applicants than we have spaces for, and we are working on building a diverse class of bright and talented students,” Conroy wrote in an e-mail Tuesday.
Conroy said the Law School’s dean of admissions was not ready to comment on the applicant pool at this time.
Many of Yale’s peer schools also did not experience a rise in applicants. At Harvard Law School, where around 7,000 students generally apply annually, this year’s numbers were down slightly, Harvard Law School admissions official Todd Morton said.
Morton said that in the last two or three years the admissions rate at Harvard Law has been relatively stable and, for a few years prior to that, the rate had been rising. The data from the last five years exhibits a net increase in the rate of applicants, Morton said.
Harvard officials said that in most areas the pool of applicants this year looks very similar to those of recent years.
A spokesperson for the Columbia School of Law, which usually receives around 8,000 applicants each year, said that this year the number was down slightly but that it has remained fairly steady in recent years.
“We are definitely pleased with the applicants,” the spokesperson said, noting that the law school now faces the task of narrowing the pool down to a class of around 450 students.
Although the University of Pennsylvania and Duke’s law schools reported increases in admissions — Duke receiving its highest number of applicants yet — there was some speculation that Duke’s increase could have been caused by the institution’s rising status on the U.S. News and World Report rankings in recent years, Duke senior admissions official Mark Hill said.
“We have hired some really good faculty lately and are in the middle of some great construction, so we would like to think it had more to do with that than the rankings,” Hill said.
Wendy Margolis, director of communications for the Law School Admission Council, said although the number of applicants to law schools has been rising since 1997, with a 10-percent or more increase for some years, this year the national number of applicants did not rise by as much, and in many regions has shown significant decreases.
“This year, it has been up much less from last year,” Margolis said. “It looks like it is slowing down a little bit.”
Margolis added that the number of people applying to law schools in a given year often depends on the state of the economy.
“People will put off their jobs for a while before entering law school if the economy is bad,” she said.
In terms of a regional distribution, Margolis said the Midwest was the only region in the country that recently saw an increase in the number of law school applicants.