An important new report entitled: 2015 State of Legal Education: An in-depth look into law school admissions choices” has just been released by Law School Transparency (LST). (Full disclosure – I had a minor role in editing some sections of the report.) The report has already received attention in the press (see this editorial in today’s New York Times) and is likely to receive more in the coming days. It is also likely to be a topic of conversation among current and prospective law students, many of whom rely heavily on LST for reliable information about law schools. I recommend that all law professors and law school administrators read it in its entirety. In the meantime, I offer below a summary of what I consider to be some of the most important findings and recommendations in the report.
As the title implies, the report focuses on the questionable admissions policies practiced by many law schools during the enrollment crisis from 2011 to the present (although there are several other important subjects covered as well). Using a risk profile that I developed based on LSAT scores (first reported here on TFL) the report identifies 74 schools which admitted classes consisting of at least 25% at risk students in the fall of 2014 (statistics are not yet available for the 2015 entering classes). Fully half of these schools, 37, admitted classes consisting of at least 50% at risk students (149 LSAT and below). Most disturbingly, 18 schools admitted classes where over half of the students were categorized as being at very high or extreme risk of failing out of law school or failing the bar exam. (See the list of schools here.)
The report acknowledges that LSAT scores are imperfect predictors, and that the risk presented by admitting a student with a low LSAT score might be offset by requiring that the student have a correspondingly strong undergraduate GPA. Through sophisticated statistical modeling, the report proves that this is not what is happening. (See the section headed “Serious risk law schools did not take enough students with better undergraduate GPAs” in the Analysis section of the report.)
To confirm the reliability of my risk-model, LST managed to acquire data regarding bar passage from two law schools. A school which chose to remain anonymous provided 7 years’ worth of data, and the University of Denver provided 14 years’ worth of data. The data confirms that my risk categories are valid. At the anonymous school, only 16% of students in the extreme risk category (144 LSAT or lower) passed the bar on their first attempt. At the University of Denver, students in the extreme risk category passed on their first attempt at the slightly higher rate of 27%. In the very high risk category (LSAT of 145 or 146), 19% passed the first time at the anonymous school, and 39% passed the first time at Denver. In the high risk category (147-149 LSAT), 23% passed the first time at the anonymous school and 57% passed at Denver.