The Unofficial Guide to the “ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools”

The LSAC and ABA websites have posted portions of the 2012 edition of the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools. The LSAC’s two-page spreads of each of the 198 JD-conferring ABA law schools is here; the remainder of the Official Guide is on the ABA’s website here. The Official Guide is a great resource for people researching the U.S. legal education system. It is not, however, without its pitfalls, and it can mislead the unwary because even the notes preceding the LSAC “spreads” in chapter 13 (pp. 69-71) are unclear. For the information I consider most important, a few things to keep in mind:

(1)  “Tuition and Fees” and “Living Expenses” data are from the 2010-2011 school year

(2)  “JD Enrollment and Ethnicity” data are taken from the fall 2010 except the “JD Degrees Awarded” subsection, which are those who graduated in the 2009-2010 academic year, i.e. by the previous May.

(3)  Similarly, “GPA and LSAT Scores” is for the incoming class in fall 2010, the class that will graduate in May 2013.

(4)  “Employment (9 months after graduation)” gives us a loose idea of May 2009 graduates’ fates. Quote of the day, “The employment percentages are based on the graduates whose employment status was ‘known.’ Hence, for the schools reporting a large percentage of graduates for whom the employment status is unknown, the percentage reported may not be a very accurate reflection of the actual percentage of the class as a whole.” (71)

(5)  “Bar Passage Rates” is the cumulative first-time bar passage rate for all takers in the calendar year of 2009, so it includes 2008 (and prior) grads who waited until 2009 to sit for a bar exam and 2009 grads who took it after graduation in May 2009.

(6)  “JD Attrition (from prior year)” refers to the period between October 2009 and October 2010, so generally the 2009-2010 academic year. “Transfers” is similar, the 2009-2010 academic year.

The general rule is that unless otherwise specified, you’re seeing data from the fall 2010, and any “(from prior year)” is from the fall 2009.

For those of you still reeling from the Villanova scandal, the Official Guide states this about how it compiles these data:

The two pages of numerical data about each school were compiled from questionnaires completed during the fall 2010 academic semester and submitted by ABA-approved law schools to the ABA’s Consultant on Legal Education as part of the accreditation process. The completed questionnaires provided to the Consultant’s Office are certified by the dean of each law school. Each certification is submitted to the Consultant’s Office as an assurance that the information provided accurately reflects prevailing conditions at the law school for which the certification is given. The Consultant’s Office, however, does not directly audit the information submitted by the respective institutions on an annual basis. (69)

One wonders what a dean’s certification is worth.

I’m not sure if the ABA published the non-law school specific section of the Official Guide in the past, but Chapter 12, which summarizes fall 2010 law school data, will be quite the boon for me. I intend to revise the long-term tuition information and tuition projections in the LSTB’s “pages” section over the summer.



  1. Since you like numbers, stats, trends, etc, I have a suggestion for you: Google Trends ( Use it to “google trend” terms associated with law school, like “lsat,” “lsac,” etc. You can compare it to other educational terms as well, like “mcat”, “aamc,” “gre,” etc.

    I have been fooling around with it and have “found” a remarkable correlation between law school applicants (data from the LSAC website) and the “google trend” data for “lsat” or “lsac”. Better yet, it “predicted” the tanking of applicants last cycle, and it is “predicting” yet another cycle with fewer applicants than the last.

    I am sure you can make some pretty cool graphs with all that data and/or keep yourself busy/entertained for a while.

    Thanks for your blog!

    1. MORE DATA? I’m swamped with regular work as it is. However, you nailed it with the Google trends. If you look at the LSAC/ABA data, the peak applicant year was 2004 and it’s been trending downward ever since, even though enrollments are increasing.

      Perhaps it’s time for you to start your own law stats blog.

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