LSAT Tea-Leaf Reading

LSAT Tea-Leaf Reading: June 2017 Edition

For those of you who were as curious as I about whether a secular trend in law-school interest was causing the uptick in LSATs, well, too bad! Count me in on the bandwagon attributing it to His Emolumence’s perfidy. I try to caution against reading the minds of potential law-school applicants, but what other explanation is there? In June 2017, 27,606 people took the LSAT, up an amazing 19.8 percent from a year ago (23,051).

The four-period moving sum rose by 4.2 percent to 113,909, a record not seen since December 2012 (115,348). To put these numbers in context, the last time there were this many June LSAT-takers was June 2010 (32,973). You know, back when I first joined the crowed warning people that law school was usually a bad idea. In fact, the year-over-year growth rate is the highest going all the way back to 1988—the second year for which the LSAC reliably publishes LSAT-administration information. The 4.2-percent growth rate for the moving sum is comparable to December (4.1 percent) and September/October (6.5 percent) 2009 . If I had seen the June 2017 LSAT without knowing anything else, I’d’ve thought the economy was in a recession (or L.A. Law came on the air, which is what some claim caused the ’80s surge).

I note three more items. One, the LSAC sure released this information a lot more quickly than last year, when it took until August to tell us about the June LSAT results. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think it was happy to discuss good news…

Two, I acknowledge that the 19.8-percent LSAT jolt was leaked last week. Uh-huh. That’s consistent with the times…

Three, if the political cause for the renewed enthusiasm is true, then bless these LSAT-takers idealistic hearts. However, next to nothing has changed in the U.S. or legal economies since Inauguration Day to warrant a more optimistic outlook on the legal profession (unless you’re defending His Emolumence and his family, in which case, you’re probably teetering in the character-and-fitness department). Meanwhile, going by my predictions from earlier this year, it appears Congress is going nowhere, so don’t expect much reform of Grad PLUS loans. Instead, maybe Betsy DeVos will whip up yet another income-directed repayment plan. Or maybe she’ll get high on Ben Carson’s glyconutrients stash.

Final word: I can’t imagine the renewed interest in law school lasting as long as our dear leader’s tenure in office, but it may be a while yet.

LSAT Tea-Leaf Reading: February 2017 Edition

Make that three administrations in a row that the number of LSAT takers has risen. At last, the LSAC has published the results of the February 2017 LSAT. 21,400 people took the test, up 5.4 percent from a year ago (20,301).

The four-period moving sum of LSAT administrations rose 1 percent to 109,354. By comparison, this administration year comes in slightly lower than 2012-13 (112,515). At the same time, the number of applicants is falling from last year, 1.9 percent lower than this time in 2016. As of now 55,100 people are projected to apply to law schools this year, but there may be a late surge in applicants as has tended to be the case in recent years. The number may be higher.

Although I’m still baffled why so many people would be interested in going to law school after such negative news in 2016, it’s even more surprising that more LSATs translates into fewer applicants. Perhaps LSAT takers are more strategic about their scores, which cautions against the hypothesis that the “wrong people” aren’t applying to law school (because, obviously, only high-LSAT scorers make good lawyers). So far, there’s no evidence of a Trump-induced surge in law-school interest. I’m confident that’s premature, but it’s something to bear in mind when the June LSAT takes place.

LSAT Tea-Leaf Reading: December 2016 Edition

The number of December LSAT takers grew to 31,340 (+7.6 percent) this administration. It’s the second period with growth after small drops in February and June 2016.


The four-period moving sum, which is identical to the calendar-year total, rose to 108,255 (+2.1 percent). The growth rate is a hair less than in September/October 2015 (2.2 percent). The ABA Journal summarizes the discussion of whether the jump in test takers is increased interest in law school or a result of pushing the September/October administration earlier. Ultimately, the trend speaks to more interest in law school no matter how it’s distributed. We’ll learn more someday when the LSAC publishes data on first-time test takers.

I did not predict this result. As I said about the September/October 2016 LSAT administration, I thought the New York Times article on law schools earlier this summer would reduce interest in law school. However, as I discovered a few weeks ago, many applicants appear interested solely in highly regarded law schools, so even if there’s a bump in applicants, most law schools might not hear from any of them.

Speaking of which, the LSAC reports that applicants are down about 4.2 percent compared to last year. That still puts us on track to ~53,800 applicants. Last year 56,126 people applied to law school. With the back-loaded LSAT and later application deadlines, it’s possible that more people will apply than currently predicted. Again, I recommend caution because they may not distribute their applications evenly.

LSAT Tea-Leaf Reading: September/October 2016 Edition

It only took the LSAC 40 days since the September/October LSAT administration to update its Web site, which is a noticeable improvement over June and February. Frankly, I’m finding that more interesting than the actual numbers: 33,563 for September/October, up 1.0 percent from last year.


Because of the rise in test takers, The four-period moving sum budged up 0.3 percent to 106,030. Essentially, the trend is flat, but I thought it would continue falling because of the New York Times article a few months back. I think it’s safe to say that if the Times can’t discourage people from law school, then the low-hanging fruit of easily dissuaded potential applicants has been exhausted.

Still, we don’t know anything about people who don’t choose to take the LSAT because they think it’s a bad idea. I question whether that’s a logically valid category. On the whole, we can expect another poor haul for law schools. Maybe others will consider going the Indiana Tech route.

Speaking of Indiana Tech, I recommend reading J-Dog’s gloating on the subject. He earned the privilege.

LSAT Tea-Leaf Reading: June 2016 Edition

Whoo-ey! Took long enough. As with February, the LSAC took its sweet time posting the number of people who sat for the most recent LSAT. In June 23,051 people took the test, down 0.8 percent from last year (23,238).

No. LSAT Takers, 4-Testing Period Moving Sum

The four-period moving sum fell trivially again by 0.2 percent to 105,696. My December speculation that LSATs are trending downward again appears to be holding, but these numbers are really, really flat.

Meanwhile LSAC data indicate that 1 percent more people are applying to law school this year. I can see this number falling next year because of the latest round of New York Times coverage on law school, but until then, I’m still curious what the application distribution will be for this year. September/October will probably be more insightful.

Anyway, a year ago I joked that law school was becoming a thing again, but that trend appears blunted. That’s where we are.

LSAT Tea-Leaf Reading: February 2016 Edition

…And why it took until the last week of March for the LSAC to put the data up is not known at this time.

20,301 people took the LSAT in February 2016, down a trivial 0.3 percent from last year (20,358).

No. LSAT Takers, 4-Testing Period Moving Sum

The four-period moving sum fell an even more trivial 0.1 percent to 105,883 tests. The last time LSATs were this low was … last year (105,940), so I’ll not regale you with what was on the pop charts as in the past.

Rereading December’s tea-leaf-reading post, I said something about how LSATs might be trending downward again after a bump. The February 2016 administration appears to be validating that hypothesis, but at this point only barely so.

Indeed, last year I thought the growth in LSAT’s was generated by people gunning for high-ranking law schools, but the 509 information reports didn’t bear that out, to my surprise. I had a hunch it’ll happen this year because there was such a surge in applications per applicant early off, but as your chief tasseographer, I ask for patience.

Speaking of applicants, I’d chart this year’s crop compared to last year’s, but they look nearly identical, so there’s no benefit. By whatever math you use, there will probably be around 56,000 applicants this year—that’s for all academic terms, not just fall.


Finally, Cornell Law School informs me that it misreported its graduate debt this year. I thank Cornell for its diligence, and the corrected figure now appears on the “debt rankings” post. As with the Idaho, I was unable to rebuild the HTML table as I’ve already deleted the master. Thus, corrections are inline only.

LSAT Tea-Leaf Reading: December 2015 Edition

The LSAC was oddly slow putting up December LSAT data, but that’s okay because I have little to say about it. The number of LSAT takers has grown for five consecutive testing periods, but things slowed down this time.

No. LSAT Takers, 4-Testing Period Moving Sum

29,115 people took the LSAT in December, up a mere 1.9 percent over last year. The four-period moving sum grew a mere half a percent to 105,940.

I have no insight into whether this slowdown means anything or is just a blip. I’ll speculate after the February or June administrations.