A quick update: we are 12 weeks into the new application cycle, and according to LSAC applications are up approximately 10% from last year. When you look at the data closely and compare "Week X" last year to "Week X" this year, however, it is closer to 1-2% by my review. In fact, Week 12 is falling on essentially the same value for last year and for 2014 prior. It is still not clear how LSAC is doing their supposed apples-to-apples comparison, but that will remain a mystery, I guess.
Because I am a self-professed data wonk, I also noticed that the applicant data tends to follow a very particularized curve very well, better than the polynomial functions I used previously (the logistic function, for anyone who is interested). For example, when you look at 2017, it's pretty easy to get a near 1.0 r-squared value for "goodness of fit," and this makes experiential sense - applicant count starts off, accelerates for a while, and then tapers off later in the cycle.
The only reason this matters, in my book, is that I like to look at the rate of change of applicants in each cycle. In my opinion, this is a proxy for "applicant enthusiasm", and is a better indicator that percent change from year to year. If the rate of change spikes quickly and is sustained ("Applicant Velocity"), you get a high applicant count at the end of the cycle. (e.g. 2012). If the rate of change is slow and lethargic (e.g. 2016), then people aren't applying in droves and the law schools are keeping the application window open longer to get the trickle of applicants to get up to prior-year levels.
I've included a prediction for 2018 based on the data so far, and it looks as though 2018 is basically shaping up to be 2017 all over again. How this is 10% higher than last year is still not apparent, but "enthusiasm" seems to be back at 2014 levels. We haven't seen 2011-2013 levels of applicants, or applicant rates, for several years now. One can only hope that most people are getting the message, and only those who really, really, really, want to got to law school are doing so. Anything to help correct the legal graduates market has to be a good thing, except perhaps for the law schools themselves.