According to a survey by Kaplan Test Prep, the 2015–2016 year may see an increase in the number of students applying to law schools south of the border, making it one of the most competitive law school admissions cycles for Americans, as well as several hundred Canadian students.

Eighty-eight per cent of the 120 law schools surveyed agree that this increase in applications is possible. Data from the Law School Admission Council echoes this possibility as the number of Law School Admission Tests (LSATs) taken between December 2014 and June 2015 has increased.

This projected increase comes after the cohort entering law school in 2014 was the smallest entering class in 40 years. Fifty-four per cent of schools reported cutting the number of seats for the 2014 class, while 35 per cent of law school cut the number of seats for the 2015 class.

Jeff Thomas, Kaplan Test Prep’s executive director of pre-law programs, stated that the previous drop in LSAT takers and law school applicants was due to the poor employment opportunities for potential lawyers. Following the 2008 recession, when there was a boost in applications to law schools and a subsequent large number of law school graduates, the job market could not accommodate the new lawyers.

“What we are seeing now is a slow and somewhat steady increase of jobs in the legal industry. There [is] a general consensus that while the market is still fragile, we have turned a corner,” said Thomas. “Another key point to mention is that many law schools have responded to this situation with pro-activity and innovation, including changes to their curricula to make their students more practice-ready for the workforce.”

Decrease in applications to Ontario law schools

Although U of T produces more applicants to American law schools than any other university in Canada, thousands of students will be applying to law schools in Ontario where the number of applicants tells a different story than in the US.

According to data obtained from Benjamin Alarie, associate professor and chair of admissions at U of T’s Faculty of Law, Ontario law schools have experienced a drop in applications from 2013 to 2015, with the exception of U of T, which has seen an increase in applications.

Of the 18 law schools in Canada, seven are located in Ontario. Statistics from Ontario Universities’ Applications Centre, show that all Ontario law schools had previously seen a steady increase in the number of applications from 1997 up until 2013.

Mya Rimon, assistant dean of students at Osgoode Hall Law School, said that word of the struggling legal market is beginning to impact applications to Canadian law schools as it once did to US law schools.

“I think, also, that there has been more recent media attention (ie. starting in about 2012) in Canada about the ‘articling crisis’ (although I don’t necessarily agree with that premise) so there may be some concern (warranted or not) about the Canadian legal job market,” said Rimon.