Don’t worry; you don’t need to be an Econ major to get into law school. Nevertheless, understanding some basic economic concepts can prove highly useful when it comes to analyzing and overcoming the challenge of law school admissions. For starters, why is it so difficult to get into law school?
Supply & Demand
Perhaps the most fundamental idea in economics, supply and demand offers a simple and rational explanation to this FAQ. In the market for labour, at each wage there is both a quantity demanded (the number of workers firms are willing to employ at that wage), and a quantity supplied (the number of workers willing to work for that wage). Lawyers provide an important service to individuals and businesses, which is always in high demand, so, on average, they make a high wage. Since the average wage for lawyers is high, the quantity supplied is also high, because many individuals want to make a lawyer’s salary. As a result, the demand for law school is high.
However, firms do not want to hire too many lawyers at such a high wage, which makes the demand for lawyers relatively small, and thus the “supply” of law school (the number of students law schools are willing to admit), is also small. High demand and low supply makes for very competitive admissions. So how can economics help you overcome this challenge?
Marginal benefit is the amount of benefit (or utility) you gain from one extra unit of a good, service, or activity. When it comes to allocating your time efficiently, you should always think in terms of marginal benefit. Is the marginal benefit of one additional hour of studying greater than that of sleeping? If you’ve only spent 10 minutes studying and allocated 9 hours to sleep, then probably. If you’ve been studying for 4 hours and only allocated 6 hours to sleep, maybe not. It isn’t always possible to know for sure, but framing decisions in this context will at least allow you to make an educated guess.
The idea behind diminishing returns is that rate of return you get on an input decreases with increasing input, and is an important concept to recognize if you want to maintain your GPA. We know from the law of diminishing returns (and probably empirically as well), that it is easier to go from an A minus to an A, than it is to go from an A to an A plus.
So if you are aiming to increase your overall GPA, while it may be tempting to focus on your bird courses to drag it up, it will probably be more effective to focus your efforts on the courses that are currently dragging it down (e.g. getting your 75% up to an 80% rather than your 85% up to a 90%). Furthermore, GPA is non-linear, so improving your lowest grades will increase your GPA by more than if you increase your highest grade by the same amount.
Opportunity cost is what you give up to get something. In some cases this may include the money you have to spend to get something, but in almost all cases it includes the time or opportunities (hence the name) you sacrifice. Opportunity cost is no different from our regular idea of cost in that you typically pay a higher price for things that are valuable.
As previously discussed, the demand for law school is high, which is just another way of saying it is valuable, and therefore there is high opportunity cost associated with getting into law school. If you are truly committed to becoming a lawyer, be prepared to make sacrifices. You need to achieve a high GPA, great extracurriculars, and a strong LSAT score, with limited time. Perhaps this means you can’t go to the party this weekend, or maybe it means you can’t get the 8 hours of sleep you wanted. Maybe you don’t have time to go to the gym, or maybe you don’t have time for Netflix. What you give up is up to you. You don’t have to sacrifice everything, but no matter what you do you have to sacrifice something.
One of the defining characteristics of a perfectly competitive market is the homogeneity of the good. Since all the goods in the market are indistinguishable buyers have no reason to prefer goods from one seller to another. Given how many students apply to law school every year, all with similar GPAs, similar LSAT scores, and similar extracurricular involvement, most applicants are a commodity, giving law schools no reason to prefer them over any of the other applicants.
If you want to get into law school you have to stand out from the crowd in one way or another. Find your competitive edge and use it to differentiate yourself from everyone else. Of course, you will still need to maintain your GPA, participate in extracurricular activities, and ace the LSAT, but if you can set yourself apart from the competition it will make getting accepted to law school much more likely. Remember, the goal is not to be just like everyone else.
Keeping these concepts in mind, you should now be better prepared to take on the challenge of getting accepted to law school. For more information on law school admissions, the LSAT, and upcoming events, follow QPLS on Facebook and Instagram. Check out our blog for more tips on how to get great grades in university, and sign up for a free Minute School account for exclusive access to thousands of exam practice questions for your courses to start getting better marks in minutes!