3 Law School Trends to Watch for in 2013

The new year could bring shifts within law schools and the legal industry.

EU and EU member flags in front of EU-parliament in Brussels. Left site of entrance behind Altiero Spinelli building at Place Louxembourg.

Happy New Year! As you know, Law Admissions Lowdown usually covers specific aspects of law school admissions, such as preparing for the LSAT or writing your personal statement. However, as Tuesday marks the beginning of a new year, this week we will step back and examine the bigger picture. 

Law schools and the legal industry are constantly changing and evolving, so 2013 should bring some exciting new developments. Here are three trends to watch for in the coming year.

1. Smaller applicant pool: The numbers of law school applications and law school applicants have been declining in the last few years, down from an all-time high of around 87,500 applicants and 602,300 applications for entry to law school in fall 2010.

In fall 2012, 67,957 applicants submitted 469,642 applications, according to the Law School Admission Council. Compared to the year before, the number of applicants for fall 2012 decreased by 13.6 percent, and the number of applications decreased by 12.5 percent. This decline will likely continue in 2013, though at a much more moderate pace, and I predict it will begin to level off and perhaps even reverse in the next few years.

[Get tips on applying to law school.]

As a result of this smaller pool of applicants, those applying in 2013 should have significant leverage in the law school application process. First, they will likely have access to higher caliber law schools as competition decreases slightly (though some schools may decrease class size to maintain their GPA/LSAT averages and low acceptance rates).

Also, applicants will have more bargaining power in terms of financial aid packages. Note that even with these advantages for applicants, admission to the top law schools will remain extraordinarily competitive.

[Find out how to negotiate law school financial aid.]

2. Increase in big firm hiring: Law firms have been steadily increasing their hiring since 2009, when many firms did very little, if any, hiring at all.

Law school students graduating in 2013 and in the following few years will likely see more job opportunities at the highest-paying "Big Law" firms, though, like in nearly all professions at the moment, overall job openings may still be lower than we would hope for.

As the economy continues to recover, corporations will be less cautious financially than they were during the recession, so the demand for lawyers to manage mergers and acquisitions activity, for example, will likely increase substantially; a significant pickup in such activity was noted in the second half of 2012. 

3. Emphasis on international law: As globalization continues to foster interdependence between nations, there will be a growing need for lawyers specializing in comparative and international law, especially international business law. In 2013, law students who focus on law related to treaties and trade, workers' protections, free trade, and cross-border economic relationships are likely to be especially appealing to employers.

At many law schools, students can choose from a wide variety of international law classes and activities. The New York University Law School, ranked highest in international law by U.S. News, offers a range of programs dedicated to international law, such as the Hauser Global Law School Program, Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, Institute for International Law and Justice, and the Jean Monnet Center for International and Regional Economic Law and Justice.

At University of Pennsylvania Law School, the Bok Visiting International Professors Program brings legal practitioners from around the world to campus to teach intensive mini-courses about their unique areas of expertise; these have included seminars on German corporate law taught by Professor Brigitte Haar. Penn also offers a visiting scholars program, bringing international students' unique perspectives into the classrooms and onto the campus.

[Find out how to get into law school as an international student.]

What trends do you foresee in the coming year? Let me know in the comments, E-mail me at shawn.oconnor@stratusprep.com, or contact me via Twitter at @StratusPrep.