The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) tracks ethnic and gender data on people who apply to law school. Its data aren’t nearly as detailed as what appears in the Official Guide, which provides the same information by law school and has a “two or more races” category that prevents over-counting of applicants/admits/matriculants by ethnicity. That is, starting in 2012, the LSAC utilized “maximal reporting,” which ensures that the sum of applicants/admits/matriculants by ethnicity exceeds their actual totals.
I covered the demographics of who’s not applying to law school a few months ago in an Am Law Daily piece titled, “White Flight Hits Nation’s Law Schools,” but those data only applied to the 2012 academic year. The LSAC recently updated its ethnic and gender numbers for the entering class in 2013. For reasons stated above, I can’t compare them accurately to 2010, which I’ll do when the Official Guide comes out this summer, but I can give you a rough cut compared to last year.
In 2012, 67,900 people applied to law school; in 2013 only 59,400 did, an 8,500-applicant drop. There were 41,400 matriculants in 2012, 37,940 in 2013, a 3,460-matriculant drop.
Here’s the contribution to the decline in applicants by ethnicity.
And here’s the same thing for matriculants.
In 2013, men comprised 54 percent of the applicant decline; for women it was 45 percent. For matriculants, the attribution to the decline is starker: 61 percent were men; 38 percent were women.
For fun, here’s the percent of applicants admitted by ethnicity going back to 2000. The LSAC changed some of its ethnic classifications in 2010, and it began using maximal ethnic reporting in 2012, which explains some of the gaps and dashes in the categories.
Based on my comparison between 2012 and 2010, I predict the decline in white and male enrollments will not be distributed evenly among law schools in 2013. More prestigious schools will see little difference in their student bodies’ ethnic and gender compositions while the opposite will hold true for less reputable schools.
I admit I am somewhat surprised that even by 2013 white applicants and matriculants contribute so overwhelmingly to the decline, even in just one year. The proportions will stabilize at some point, but I think “law school white flight” a clear indicator that the positional value of a law degree is collapsing. It’s a sharp rebuke of how the profession has failed to identify and resist incentives that reward signals over substance.