More students applied to law schools last year nationwide than any other time in the last 10 years, with more than 98,000 applications for the fall of 2003. According to Justin Serrano, executive director of Kaplan Test Prep, this year may also see a record high number of LSAT exams administered, surpassing the previous record of over 150,000 in 1991.

“This continues the trend we’ve seen since 1998 toward ever higher numbers of applicants to law school, as a weakened economy has incited more people to seek graduate degrees and avoid the hiring slump,” Serrano said.

According to Serrano, this rise in applications caused the admissions bar to be raised at many law schools, meaning that students need to achieve higher LSAT scores and solid GPAs to stand out in the crowd of other highly qualified entrants.

Serrano said that although admissions are extremely competitive right now, students still have plenty of opportunities. If students have strong LSAT scores, good grades and a solid admissions package, they have a good chance of being admitted to a good school, even if the school is not their top choice.

Serrano said that it is important that applicants niche themselves in this competitive environment by targeting their top choices, determining their strengths as candidates and marketing themselves accordingly.

Serrano added that students should remember that there are many high-quality schools out there, some of which may not be obvious choices or top-ranked schools. Along those lines, he urged students not to get too preoccupied with rankings when choosing a school.

Serrano said that law degrees have always been extremely popular, particularly because of the versatility it offers for many careers. Additionally, a law degree is something graduates can decide to work on anytime, without many prerequisites or specific work experience.

This may be changing due to the increased competition, Serrano said. Law schools are in an ideal position at the moment because they can be as selective as they wish. Schools are now looking for other distinguishing factors among their applicants besides GPAs and test scores.

“Work experience has become a benchmark for schools to more easily discern who among their applicants might have a level of maturity best suited for the law school environment,” Serrano said. “In other words, one’s status as a recent college graduate, seeking a law degree in lieu of floundering in today’s bleak job market, might work against him or her.”

Increasing competition may also lead to greater emphasis on the LSAT.

“Every LSAT point counts and the resolution of the exam becomes very high,” Serrano said. “Additionally, the application really needs to be nothing short of immaculate.”

For the past two years, there has been a greater than 40 percent increase in the enrollments for law school.

The process becomes even more complex when one considers the significant spread of demographics. Serrano said that unlike the college admissions process, where schools are choosing from a group of students possessing similar educational backgrounds, the pool of law school applicants is teeming with qualified students and professionals, many of whom are bringing several years of diversified work experience to the table.

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