Grantee Research

Before the JD: Undergraduate Views on Law School

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



law schools, diversity pipeline programs, first-generation college students


From 2010 to 2015, law schools experienced a sharp decline in applications and enrollment, while many other graduate and professional programs stayed flat or experienced a modest increase in both. Journalists, lawyers, and legal education experts offered theories on why law schools experienced such a dramatic drop, but little research was available about how undergraduate students make decisions—about post-graduate education generally or legal education specifically. This lack of research is a marked contrast to the volume of studies on how high school students make decisions about college.

The nation needs diverse, talented, and well-educated lawyers and judges if it is to continue to strengthen and benefit from the rule of law. Understanding of the factors that lead to the decision to attend law school will enable colleges and universities to provide better information to prospective students. It will also guide schools in developing courses and programs that better match the goals of incoming law students. Before the JD is the first known survey in more than 50 years aimed at gathering first-hand undergraduate views on graduate and professional school in general and law school in particular.