Day: 2013/11/22

Brilliant People Still Applying to Law School

…Or at least “people who can crush standardized tests” are still applying to law school.

[Mini-Update: For those who’ve read Jerry Organ’s recent writing on the subject, I don’t imply that he’s one of the people arguing that the “wrong people” are applying to law school because he didn’t argue that. Two, the reason he found a greater high-end LSAT decline than I did is that he estimated the applicant profiles into 2013 and I didn’t. His projections may prove correct, but at the very least the initial decline started in the upper-middle LSAT band and has accelerated to the high end.]

I’m not going to go out of my way to cite them, but I’ve seen it asserted that the “wrong people” are choosing not to apply to law school. By “wrong people” they mean those with high GPAs and LSAT scores, aka those who keep civilization from fragmenting into warring states. Focusing only on LSAT scores—as they’re most comparable—the story is a little more complicated. Sure, the collapse in applicants has skewed towards the high end of the LSAT spectrum, but for the most part, the decline has been in the middle.

Here’s 2012 compared to 2010.

No. Applicants by LSAT Score

And here’s the percent decline in each bracket.

Percent Change Number of Applicants by LSAT Score Bracket

So yes, there’s been a big drop at the high end, but overall the decline has been distributed normally as the first chart implies. Here’s the apportionment:

Percent Fewer Applicants Share of Total Decline by Lsat Score

(n=-20,479 applicants)

Pretty much a bell curve. Importantly, more than 60 percent would’ve gotten an LSAT score below 160. The 165+ range doesn’t account for 15 percent of the total decline. Lesson: Those concerned that the best and brightest aren’t interested in law school can rest easy; no warring states! It’s the upper-middle brackets, 150-164 (64 percent!), that are driving the applicant drop.

(Source: LSAC National Decision Profiles)

And for some fun, here’s the decline in law schools’ full-time matriculants’ LSAT scores by their 2014 edition U.S. News rankings.

2010-2012 LSAT Score Decline by U.S. News Category (2014 Edition)

(Slight whoopsie: the middle set of bars should be 51-100. Also, not published (“NP”) includes the unranked University of La Verne, not that it makes much of a difference.)

Looking at this makes me wonder aloud: How far can these numbers drop before employers start worrying about credential dilution at some higher-ranked schools? Or does the sheepskin outweigh the entering credentials?