Brain Drain: Are Law Schools Taking Less Qualified Students?

By William Peacock, Esq. on January 05, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

We know that law school demand is down. We know that fewer people are taking the LSAT, applying to law school, and actually going. The trend is inarguable at this point, with schools enrolling the fewest number of 1Ls since 1974 -- when there were 53 fewer ABA-accredited law schools.

One might think that the smallest class sizes in decades would mean that most law schools' admissions standards are holding steady. One would be terribly wrong, it seems.

By Any Measure: LSAT Standards Are Down

How low can they go? Jerry Organ, at The Legal Whiteboard, looked at the LSAT profile for entering first-year students from 2010 through 2013. By any measure -- LSAT distribution, median score, or average score -- there is a clear and dramatic shift toward the lower end of the scale, with more low-end scores being deemed acceptable than ever before.

To put it bluntly: Those whose scores indicate that law school probably isn't a good fit are being admitted in record numbers. This chart is particularly interesting:

Remember that the average LSAT score is around 150. Look at the declining categories: Everything above average. And look at which categories are exploding: 145-149 and <145. These are people who couldn't scratch anywhere close to an average LSAT score and they are being let into school, presumably at full sticker price.

As for the people who should go to law school -- folks with high LSAT scores who would seem to have a better chance of doing well in school, not to mention being offered a scholarship to entice them to attend -- you'll notice that those folks are staying away: Pretty much every score band above average saw a decline.

Why This Is a Problem

Where will these sub-average admittees be in three years? Considering their poor performance on the LSAT, it's not hard to imagine them having trouble with an even more difficult standardized test: the bar exam. (That might already be happening, in fact.)

And we all know how bad job prospects are for recent graduates -- they're probably even worse for folks who go to the sort of lower-tier school that would pack its incoming class with students with sub-average scores.

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