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Issue/Research Brief/Blog

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undergraduate students, law schools, legal employment


The recent decline in law school applicants is well-documented. Despite a slight increase in 2018, the number of law school applicants remains substantially lower than levels observed prior to 2011. This decrease in the demand for legal education presents an opportunity to better understand the pathway to law school and the formation of interest in pursuing a law degree or career.

The American Association of Law Schools pioneered inquiry in this area with their groundbreaking study, Before the JD: Undergraduate Views on Law School, which surveyed undergraduates from 25 four-year institutions and first-year law students from 44 law schools, to learn more about what attracts and deters undergraduate interest in legal education and other advanced degrees. This report aims to build on this work by analyzing a broader dataset of undergraduate students—specifically, college seniors—to further describe the characteristics, academic behaviors, goals and career path considerations of those who report an interest in law compared to those who have other career and degree aspirations. Utilizing 15 years of data from the College Senior Survey administered by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at the University of California, Los Angeles, our study offers insight about the traits of college seniors aspiring to a law degree and/or career, when their interest in law develops, and the extent to which their interest in law changes during college.