Following a national trend in increased law school applications and the school’s own rising prestige, the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University is forecasting a record number of applications this year.
“While establishing ourselves as a top-25 law school, we have removed barriers and made it easier for students to apply,” ASU Law Dean Douglas Sylvester said. “The record-setting pace of applications this year is validation of our belief that the quality and value of an ASU Law degree is second-to-none.”
The Law School Admission Council, a nonprofit corporation that tracks law school applications nationwide, shows that 207,986 applications have been submitted as of Jan. 26, a 10 percent increase from a year ago. At ASU Law, the increase is significantly higher.
“We’re up over 65 percent over last year,” said Andrew Jaynes, ASU Law’s assistant dean who oversees admissions and financial aid. “According to the Law School Admission Council, we’re one of only four schools in the country out of about 200 law schools that have seen an increase of 50 percent or more.”
A nationwide trend
Experts have attributed the nationwide year-over-year spike in law school applications to two factors: politics and the economy.
Since the inauguration of President Donald Trump in January 2017, the nation’s political divide has sharpened. High-profile legal dramas have played out involving a litany of topics: alleged Russian interference in the election, immigration, the environment, religion, LGBT rights, firearms and sexual harassment, just to name a few.
“During the past year, the legal profession and the law have been in the news more than any time in recent history,” the Law School Admission Council said in a statement accompanying the release of the study. “The rule of law has been challenged on many fronts, attorneys and judges have been at the center of countless news stories, and the courts have addressed important and visible cases on presidential power.”
Prospective students on both sides of the political spectrum have said the emotions surrounding these issues and the current political climate have galvanized their interest in law school.
Additionally, the economy grew steadily in 2017, with U.S. gross domestic product rising by 2.3 percent and robust growth in housing prices and the stock market. The outlook for 2018 remains positive, and that has increased confidence among students that an investment in a legal education will pay off, wherever their career path may take them.
“I think people understand that a law degree is a gateway to a variety of careers in fields ranging from law and policy to nonprofits and businesses. Graduates with law degrees are attractive to different types of employers because of the skill set that they come in with,” Jaynes said.
ASU Law applications soaring: Even with applications up 10 percent nationwide, ASU Law’s over 65 percent increase is an extreme outlier. And this follows similar growth for the school, as applications rose 45 percent from 2015 to 2017. Jaynes said the surge is attributable to three key factors: the ease of applying, the school’s rising reputation, and the school’s ideal location.
Easing the application process: ASU Law is committed to removing barriers, beginning with the application process. The school has waived its application fee, and it makes it a priority to render decisions within two weeks of receiving an application, which is one of the fastest timelines in the nation.
“And our scholarship awards our quite competitive,” Jaynes said. “So we’re making it easier for people to choose ASU Law. That’s in addition to our very affordable tuition rate, particularly compared to other top-25 law schools.”
Rising reputation: ASU Law has been listed as a top-25 law school for the past two years by U.S. News & World Report, after being ranked 26th the year before. Having opened its doors in the fall of 1967, ASU Law is the youngest law school — by far — on the list. With ASU Law’s rising prestige, the school is drawing more and more applicants from across the country.
Ideal location: ASU Law is located in the Beus Center for Law and Society, which opened in 2016 in the heart of downtown Phoenix, the fifth-largest city in the U.S. The building is only footsteps away from the big law firms, the courts, major companies and many government institutions at the federal, state and local level.
Impact on admissions: The surge in applications has increased the competition to get into ASU Law. Now firmly on the national radar, the school is drawing applicants from throughout the country, with 85 percent of the applications coming from out of state. That naturally leads to a higher-credentialed and more diverse student population.
“The applications that we’ve received are of a higher quality this year, and the applications from non-residents are the highest they’ve ever been,” Jaynes said.
“We’ve been working hard and encouraging anyone interested in ASU Law to apply before the Mar. 1 deadline,” he added.