Beyond Enrollment: Why Motivations Matter to the Study of Legal Education and the Legal Profession

Document Type

Blog Posting

Publication Date


Publication Title

Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE)


COVID-19, legal education, law career, law school


The upheaval caused by COVID-19 pandemic might change everything we know about legal education. Reports in the legal media have speculated on the impact of COVID-19 on law school applications, enrollments, budgets and, ultimately, even survival. Depending on the timing, that speculation can run from the negative to the somewhat hopefully positive. Some of the uncertainty comes from the disruption in the normal application to enrollment process – like the cancellation of in-person LSAT testing. More broadly, it surely comes from the truly unprecedented situation in which we find ourselves.

The uncertainty provides an opportunity – in fact, it may require us – to think critically about the homogenized aggregate numbers of applicants and matriculants we often see along with the broad environmental factors said to drive them. With just a few notable exceptions, most recently the 2017 AALS/Gallup surveys, one is tempted to agree with the statement made almost a lifetime ago, “Vague notions, old myths, and thought-shrugging generalities are all we have to describe the raw material from which our lawyers come.”

We need to think systematically about the variety of individual motivations or reasons that may help us understand those prized numbers.


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