Keeping Up to Data: January 2024

Keeping Up to Data logo

January 2024 / Episode 2 / Under 20 minutes

Diversity Trends Continue in 2023 Entering Class

Welcome to the Keeping Up to DataSM podcast, a space in which we discuss, analyze, and contextualize trends and perspectives in the current law school admission cycle by taking a deeper dive into the most up-to-date data and making sense of the complicated world of legal education.


SUSAN KRINSKY: Welcome back to Keeping Up to Data. I’m Susan Krinsky, LSAC’s executive vice president for operations and chief of staff, with my regular update on the 2024 application cycle, and now it actually is 2024.

Based on last year’s experience, we’re at the point when we have just over 50% of the applicants and applications we would expect to see. And while we started out this cycle looking at fewer applicants and applications as compared to a year ago, we’ve seen the numbers get closer and closer to last year’s numbers.

In fact, we are now looking at 4.1% more applicants than last year at this time, with increases from every region except the Midwest and increases in every subgroup of applicants except American Indian and Alaska Native, where we are seeing a 0.2% decrease. Applicants who identify as Black or African-American are up 6.8%, and applicants who identify as Hispanic are up over 8%. In all, over 40% of this year’s applicants identify as persons of color, almost 57% identify as female, 1.4% as gender diverse, and almost one-quarter as first-generation college students.

As for application volume, applicants have submitted just over 225,000 applications, about 1.7% fewer than last year at this time. But two months ago, application volume was down about 9%. As of today, almost half of law schools are showing increases in applications, almost half are seeing decreases, and seven are showing no change from last year.

For the first four LSAT administrations of this cycle — August, September, October, and November — we had 10% more test takers than for the same four tests in 2022. As I record this podcast, we are about to go into the January test administration, and we are seeing almost 13% more registrants.

As always, you can find the latest applicant trends and numbers on our website, which is updated daily, 365 days a year.

Now I am very happy to welcome Jim Leipold, senior adviser at LSAC. Jim has both deep knowledge and deep understanding of the data that we all look at to understand the legal education landscape. I invited Jim to join us today to talk about the recently released Standard 509 data — specifically, what the 2023 entering class looks like, as well as his analysis of the factors affecting the current admission cycle.

Jim Leipold, thank you so much for joining us on Keeping Up to Data.


JIM LEIPOLD: It’s good to be here. Thank you, Susan.


SUSAN: One of the things I’d like to talk about is your recent blog post. You did, really, a fabulous analysis of what we know as the Standard 509 data. This is the third straight year of record-setting numbers. What do you make of that?


JIM: Well, I mean, we live in a really diverse country, and I think the data reflect that. And, look, schools have been working really hard. We have seen, really across higher education, diversity increasing: college enrollment, completion rates for degrees, and certainly we are seeing it at the front end of law school admissions. We’re also seeing it at the front end of legal employment, where law firms have, for three years in a row, brought in the most diverse summer associate classes.

I think it’s important to emphasize it’s not just racial and ethnic diversity. We are seeing increased diversity across every measurable spectrum. So, on gender, many more gender-diverse people, many more women than men, many more first-generation students, many more applicants, who are admitted and matriculate, who identify somewhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. You know, it really is a diverse group.


SUSAN: Which is great news for all of us. I know that 98% of the incoming class used the LSAT as part of their application process, but how do alternatives to the LSAT factor in?


JIM: I mean, I think alternatives are still very small in number in terms of their use. We see the majority of candidates continuing to take the LSAT. We see that the diversity that schools have been able to achieve, using the LSAT as an important tool, continues to increase.

You know, David Leonhardt, in The New York Times over the weekend, had a really interesting article. It was focusing on the SAT and the ACT, and the undergraduate admissions world, but he dives into some new research that really shows the use of standardized tests is a better predictor of success than any of the other markers used in undergraduate or graduate admissions. And he makes the point that, particularly for diverse candidates, these standardized tests, notwithstanding the current wave of universities stepping away from them, is the best tool that we have in higher education for identifying candidates who are likely to succeed in our institutions.


SUSAN: Jim, you’ve been on both sides of legal education. That is, you worked in admissions for many years and then for, I think, even more years on the employment side. How do you see the value of the LSAT for law schools and for law school applicants?


JIM: I used to work for the Law School Admission Council. I’m steeped in the history of the LSAT. I go back to its origin after the Second World War, where standardized testing was introduced as an equalizing measure in society. You had all these GIs coming back from the war, had higher-education credit through the GI Bill and, suddenly, the elite institutions of the world, Harvard, and Princeton, and Yale, were seeing applicants from backgrounds that they didn’t know, high schools that they didn’t know. And the standardized testing world evolved to help those universities evaluate this new applicant pool and predict success, and standardized testing really is responsible for diversifying higher education across the board.

I think all of those things are still true. The standardized test, a single measure that all candidates take, allows us, as part of a holistic admissions process, to assess candidates on an equal footing and to predict success in the first-year classroom, in graduation rates, in bar passage. You know, the LSAT correlates very well with all three of those things, and I think it’s still the best tool we have.


SUSAN: Jim, in your blog, you write, “There are additional barriers and hurdles to success that will face many members of this most diverse entering class of 2023.” Can you talk more about that?


JIM: Sure, and we said at the top of the hour here that law schools have admitted the most diverse class for the third year in a row. I said that law firms had admitted their most diverse summer associate class for the third year in a row.

But in both settings, after that moment of admission, after we open the door, we see disparities in persistence, and retention, and completion rates, and success rates. So within the law school setting, diverse candidates ... leave the law school at a higher rate than their white peers. We see gaps in bar passage rates, where students, minoritized students in particular, have lower pass rates. We see in the law firm and other legal employment settings that after the first year, students, now graduates, now young lawyers, leave their jobs at a higher rate than their white male peers, so that while almost 40% of the summer associate class was diverse last summer, by the time we get to partnership in law firms, we have only 1% of all partners across the country are Latina women and only 1% of all partners are Black or African-American women.

And so we talk about the pipeline all the time, and there’s leakage along that pipeline all the way. We’ve gotten very good at the front end in terms of opening the door and bringing people into our institutions. The work of the next decade really has to be focused on retention and making sure that students and young lawyers have truly equal opportunity once they’re admitted to our institutions, once we welcome them, and work on bolstering our completion, and success rates across the board.


SUSAN: Jim, I’m going to assume that those numbers — that is, the attrition — is not a matter of quality of performance. That it’s related to the sense of belonging, what you just described as inclusion. Would you agree with that?


JIM: I think I would. I mean, I think it’s a multifactor analysis, right? I think it’s really impossible to reduce this to sort of a single cause and effect. But we look, for instance, the LSSSE data makes it very clear that students of color have more outside responsibilities during law school than the white peer group with whom they are competing in law school: responsibility for other family members, financial responsibilities, things that take them away from their studies, the need to work, perhaps, in addition to going to law school. I think certainly inclusion is difficult because of all of the things in our society that are unequal, and all of the deep, enculturated biases that we all hold, no matter who we are, having grown up in this country as we have. I think we see those inclusion issues most acutely in the employment setting, and the way work is handed out, and the way people are promoted or brought into a meeting or a phone call.

But I think it happens in law school as well. You know, I work in the Legal Education Consulting arm of the Law School Admission Council now, and I have the privilege of walking the hallways of so many law schools again, and they really are incredibly diverse places, particularly compared to when I went to law school, and nobody likes to hear an old man say, “Oh, when I went to school, it was uphill both directions.” But truly, it’s such a diverse place, and I think schools have done a great job of trying to build inclusive communities. But that work is unending. There’s always more work to be done on that front. I think people come to us with uneven academic backgrounds in terms of the quality of their preparation. We now have a cohort coming through for whom much of their schooling was during the COVID era and was remote, and so different people have different needs, maybe, than the groups of students that have come through our institutions before.

You know, I don’t think any one thing can solve this problem, but I think we have to work at closing all the gaps wherever we see them, and I think we have an ongoing responsibility to measure and report those gaps and hold the mirror up to the profession so that we continue to strategize about ways to close these gaps where they exist.


SUSAN: Let’s shift to the current admissions cycle. Earlier in the segment, I talked about the fact that applicant volume is finally up compared to last year — it’s up about 4%. Applicants of color are up even more, which is great news. How do you view that in relationship to the Supreme Court decision of the middle of last year?


JIM: I mean, I think it’s great. You and I had just looked at the numbers together, and while the pool is up 4%, African-American applicants are up 7%, Hispanic and Latino applicants are up 9%, Asian applicants are up 6%, so schools are going to have a very diverse pool to work with in the coming cycle. And so their responsibility now is to conduct a holistic admission process that will identify a talented and diverse class without using the race variable as a specific variable in that holistic process. So, personal statements, and essay responses, and careful holistic scrutiny of the candidate and all the materials they provide is going to be more critical than ever. This is not the year to admit students on the numbers. And for what it’s worth, the name that shall not be spoken, U.S. News & World Report has changed their ranking algorithm yet again, and as a result, the admission input numbers are less important than they have been historically, and the employment outcome numbers and bar passage numbers are more important.

That’s serendipitous that that happened at the same time, but I think it gives law schools some flexibility this year, and another tool to use, the careful use of GPA and LSAT, is critical and will always be critical, but it’s only a piece. The net aggregate numbers that you end up with in terms of those two variables are going to be less important for that U.S. News rankings in the coming cycle, at least as we understand it right now, understanding they can change their formula at any moment. You know, I just hope that admissions folks are courageous in this current year, and creative, and look for ways to ensure that they continue to produce the most diverse class ever until, finally, this profession more closely mirrors the diversity of our complex society here in the United States.


SUSAN: Jim, thank you so much for being with us. I, personally, deeply appreciate your analysis, as I always have.


JIM: Thanks, Susan. It’s been a real pleasure.


SUSAN: To our listeners, thank you for joining us at Keeping Up to Data. We look forward to your joining our next episode when we will continue to take a close look at the data from the current admissions cycle. Until next time, stay well.


Thank you for joining us. Keeping Up to DataSM is a production of LSAC. If you want to learn more about the current law school admission cycle and the latest trends and news, visit us at

Back to Keeping Up to Data