When is it "too late" to apply to law school in a slow cycle?

For many years, there has been a common rule of thumb about the nature of "rolling" law school admissions—you were "early" if you applied by the end of October, you were "on time" if you applied by around the end of the calendar year, and you were "late" if you applied in mid- to late January or beyond. If you've been following our content this cycle, however, you know that we are predicting that 2023-2024 will be the slowest law school admissions cycle we've ever seen. So, how does that differing pace affect the long-standing rule of thumb?

In our estimation, the unusual circumstances of this cycle seem to have largely slowed down the pace of admissions decisions during the fall and early winter, i.e. many applicants who in other years might have heard back in October, November, or December will likely not hear back until January or February (or even March). At this point, though, in late January, things are speeding up with law schools releasing decision waves. And, we are quickly approaching the earliest application deadlines (February 1 and February 15). So, if you haven't submitted your law school applications yet, the time is now—don't get sloppy or careless (if you're looking for a last-minute review and feedback on your full application, feel free to email us at info@spiveyconsulting.com, and we can set you up with a Single Application Review with one of our excellent former law school admissions officers), but it's time to get your applications in as soon as possible.

We still have many decisions (and possibly a notably robust waitlist season) ahead of us—and, at many schools, we expect that applying in February won't notably decrease many applicants' chances—but at this point, that starts to become very individualized based on your application, your LSAT/GPA, the law schools you're applying to, how their application cycles are going, etc. In general, the more competitive the law school (both broadly and in comparison to your numerical credentials), the more important it is to get your application in quickly at this point in the cycle.

Are there exceptions to this advice? Of course. If you would be applying to a law school 5 points below their LSAT median now, but you're planning to take the LSAT in February and you anticipate a score above their median then, certainly you would have a better chance at admission applying with that higher LSAT score. If the law school in question has a deadline or priority deadline coming up soon, however, it may make sense to submit your application now but let them know that you are taking the February LSAT to try to avoid being denied or waitlisted prior to that score coming out. If the law school doesn't have a specific policy regarding future LSAT administrations at the time of application submission listed on their website or in their application, feel free to shoot them an email or give them a call to ask about their policies and recommendations for you.

As we alluded to above, a lot of the strategy at this middle point of the cycle is school-specific (and, in many cases, applicant-specific as well). While we can feel confident making categorical statements in September and October that it's not "too late" to apply, the more differentiated nature of admissions in this January-February period resists such broad statements. Once we get into March and April, you are likely disadvantaging yourself and your chances of admission to most schools, especially if you are past their priority deadline, if they have one. You will still likely have a good shot and won't be "too late" for schools where you are a very strong candidate (read: above both medians), but you may receive a lower scholarship than you otherwise would have. And, your chances at schools where you are not numerically competitive may be much slimmer.

So, what is our advice if you haven't submitted yet? First, don't panic. Applying at this point in the cycle (late January, early February) is likely less strategically disadvantageous this year than in most past years. Next, take a look at your school list, and make sure you know the deadlines and/or priority deadlines for each. Then, as we said above, the time is now—prioritize completing your application materials over other time commitments if you can, get a few other people to read your statements before you submit to avoid last-minute mistakes and sloppiness (whether that's a friend, a mentor, or one of our consultants), and submit as soon as you are ready.

Have a last-minute admissions question or two? We just launched a trial of our new Spivey Consulting Law School Admissions Hotline, through which you can schedule a one-time call with one of our consultants (former law school admissions officers) as soon as today for limited, short-term assistance. Note that this is separate from the Single Application Review service above (just email us at info@spiveyconsulting.com to get started on that). If you're just looking for answers to questions and don't require review or edits to your application materials, however, you can learn more about the Admissions Hotline (and schedule a consultation) here.