Law Schools

Will 2016 law grads have trouble with bar exam? Law prof analyzes LSATs and sees possible impact

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The number of law school applicants has been shrinking in recent years, but the decline is more pronounced for students with top LSAT scores and for those who come from elite colleges and universities, according to an analysis by a law school professor.

The impact could be felt in 2016 when this year’s entering class graduates and takes the bar exam, according to the professor, Jerry Organ of the University of St. Thomas. He analyzed the data and wrote about his findings at the Legal Whiteboard in posts here and here.

Organ looked at the number of applications from the top 240 feeder schools for law school applicants. The decline in applicants from feeder schools with law schools ranked among the top 50—traditionally elite universities—averaged about 28 percent from 2010 to 2012. The decline was about 20 percent for feeder schools with law schools ranked 50 to 100, and about 18 percent for feeder schools with law schools ranked between 100 and 146.

The decline was least steep—only about 3 percent—among feeder schools with unranked law schools.

He also looked at LSAT scores and found that, from 2010 to 2013, the number of applicants with a highest LSAT of 165 or more declined by 38 percent, while the number of applicants with a lower score below 150 declined by only 22.5 percent. “The pool of applicants is not only smaller in the 2012-13 admissions cycle as compared to 2009-10, but it is ‘weaker’ in terms of the LSAT profile,” he writes. His findings are based on data from the Law School Admission Council.

He also notes a change in the LSAT profile among first-year law school classes between 2010 and 2013. There were only nine law schools with a median LSAT of 149 or lower in the fall of 2010, 14 schools in 2011, and 21 schools in 2012.

The number could grow to nearly 30 when the data is published on the entering class for the fall of 2013, he says. “In terms of LSAT profile,” he writes, “the fall 2013 entering class is almost certainly the weakest of any class going back to fall 2002. This may impact the classroom experience at some law schools and may impact bar passage results when the fall 2013 entering class graduates in 2016.”

Overall, first-year enrollment has declined by about 10,000 students in the last three years, Organ says.

Hat tip to Legal Ethics Forum.

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