In December the LSAC administered 29,115 LSATs. That is up 1.9% over the December 2015 administrations. I heard a rumor yesterday evening that the registrations for the February 2016 administration are down, but only about 1%, from last year.
The LSAC is reporting that "As of 01/15/16, there are 157,319 2016 applications submitted by 25,260 applicants for the 2016–2017 academic year. Applicants are up 2.0% and applications are down 0.3% from 2015–2016. Last year at this time, we had 45% of the preliminary final applicant count." Based on this preliminary data, one would predict that there will be around 56,133 applicants for 2016-17.
Today, Villanova University is announcing a gift of $25 million from alumnus Charles "Chuck" Widger, founder and chairman of Brinker Capital. We will be known as the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. I was pleased to learn that the primary use of the funds will be for student scholarships, though there will also be some academic programming and a new inter-disciplinary professorship.
The LSAC is reporting that "As of 01/08/16, there are 136,994 2016 applications submitted by 22,662 applicants for the 2016–2017 academic year. Applicants are up 1.2% and applications are down 1.8% from 2015–2016. Last year at this time, we had 40% of the preliminary final applicant count." Based on this preliminary data, one would predict that there will be around 56,655 applicants for 2016-17.
The LSAC is reporting that "As of 01/01/16, there are 117,498 2016 applications submitted by 20,095 applicants for the 2016–2017 academic year. Applicants are up 0.7% and applications are down 2.3% from 2015–2016. Last year at this time, we had 36% of the preliminary final applicant count." Based on this preliminary data, one would predict that there will be around 55,819 applicants for 2016-17.
The LSAC is reporting that "As of 12/18/15, there are 101,540 2016 applications submitted by 17,987 applicants for the 2016–2017 academic year. Applicants are up 2.9% and applications are down 0.7% from 2015–2016. Last year at this time, we had 31% of the preliminary final applicant count." Based on this preliminary data, one would predict that there will be around 58,023 applicants for 2016-17.
We will know a lot more by the end of January -- and a whole lot more by the end of March -- but it looks like we'll have a small increase in applicants. Also, we should be getting the December 2015 LSAT administration data soon. The October 2015 LSAT administrations were up 7.4%.
The LSAC has posted its second report of this admissions season on applicants for fall 2016. The LSAC is reporting that "As of 12/11/15, there are 92,708 2016 applications submitted by 16,817 applicants for the 2016–2017 academic year. Applicants are up 3.4% and applications are down 0.5% from 2015–2016. Last year at this time, we had 29% of the preliminary final applicant count." Based on this preliminary data, one would predict that there will be around 57,990 applicants for fall 2016.
The LSAC has posted its first report of this admissions season on applications for the class of fall 2016. The LSAC is reporting that "As of 11/27/15, there are 70,863 2016 applications submitted by 13,881 applicants for the 2016–2017 academic year. Applicants are up 0.6% and applications are down 4.1% from 2015–2016. Last year at this time, we had 25% of the preliminary final applicant count." Based on this very preliminary data, one would predict that there will be around 55,524 applicants for fall 2016.
One initial observation about this data is that while we are seeing a tiny uptick in overall applicants, there's a decline in applications, which suggests to me that students are feeling more confident in their applications. I was just having a conversation with a colleague about whether students were applying to fewer safety schools -- or choosing to apply to "safety" schools that are higher up on in the "hierarchy" than before. As I say, this is really preliminary. I think we'll know a lot more after the new year and the picture will be a lot clearer in April.
In the meantime, if you're interested in my thoughts on ranking law schools, here's a link to a paper I put up last summer that ranks law schools using median LSAT scores of their entering class in fall 2014, along with the percentage of their class of 2014 employed in full-time, JD-required jobs nine months after graduation, and recent citations to their flagship law reviews.
The final post in this series for last application cycle is here. Also, a post on the most recent data on LSAT administrations is here.
Law School Transparency’s recent report, the 2015 State of Legal Education, led to numerous articles in the national media about the trend of law schools admitting large numbers of poorly qualified applicants. This prompted the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) -- the organization responsible for the LSAT -- to issue a press release denouncing LST’s report and purporting to rebut certain factual assertions allegedly made by LST. The press release mischaracterizes the conclusions of the LST report.
The press release begins: “A report recently released by Law School Transparency (LST) has gained headlines by claiming that some ABA-approved law schools have been intentionally admitting “high risk” students who, based on their LSAT scores, do not have a reasonable chance of passing the bar.”
LST stands by the assertion that dozens of ABA-approved law schools know that they have admitted large numbers of students who, based on their low LSAT scores, coupled with commensurately low undergraduate GPAs, are at high risk of academic failure or failing the bar. Although LST’s risk band categories are delineated by LSAT scores, LST was very careful to explain that the risks of a low LSAT score could be offset by strong academic performance in college. LST analyzed the available data and determined that law schools were not offsetting lower LSAT scores with higher GPA requirements. Although many of these same law schools have been allocating more resources to internal and external academic success and bar prep programs, these efforts have not yet offset the overall decrease in student capability, resulting in a strong trend of decreasing bar passage rates at the high-risk category schools.
Law schools can analyze internal data about attrition and bar passage rates by LSAT score and UGPA to make reasonably accurate predictions of the likely success of applicants with similar credentials. Law School Transparency has urged (and continues to urge) law schools to make internal data publicly accessible. LST acknowledges that some law schools may be better at educating students with marginal predictors and helping to prepare them for the bar. LST stands by its assertion that law schools have a duty to the legal profession to share empirically validated findings.
LSAC specifically states that LST has made three false claims. The first alleged false claim is that “LSAT scores can be used to assign bar passage risk.” LSAC objects to LST’s labeling of students with certain LSAT scores as high risk, very high risk, and extremely high risk. Drawing from LST’s report, LSAC notes that students labeled “high risk” at one school had a first-time pass rate of 57 percent, while comparable students from another school had a pass rate of 23 percent. Based on this disparity, LSAC concludes: “Clearly, many factors significantly affect bar passage rates above and beyond LSAT scores.” LST agrees wholeheartedly with this statement and has never claimed otherwise. The LSAC statement concludes “The assertion that LSAT scores alone measure comparability is patently wrong.” Here Mr. Bernstine is arguing against an assertion that the LST report never made. Here is what the LST report actually says about assessing risk by LSAT score:
The [LSAT risk bank] framework represents only a starting point for assessing the risk of bar failure. A student with a low LSAT score but very high undergraduate GPA, for example, has less risk of failing the bar than a student with the same LSAT score and a very low UGPA. Some law schools have also been more successful than others in helping students with low LSAT scores succeed on the bar exam. Where the student takes the bar exam matters as well.
While LSAC may object to “labeling” law schools and law students, LSAC doesn’t dispute the underlying premise that there is a strong correlation between LSAT score and success in law school and on the bar exam. Mr. Bernstine does not because he cannot. LST believes that “high risk” is a fair characterization of both a 43% and 77% risk of failing the bar the first time, as reflected in the data from these two schools.
This morning brings exciting news that legal historian Risa Goluboff has just been named dean of the University of Virginia's law school. Cribbing now from the Daily Progress story:
Goluboff, who specializes in civil rights, will replace Paul G. Mahoney on July 1. Mahoney announced his plans to step down and return to the faculty earlier this year.
A graduate of the Yale School of Law, Goluboff has clerked for U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Guido Calabresi and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer. She also has a doctorate in history from Princeton University.
Goluboff is the author of the 2010 book “The Lost Promise of Civil Rights” and a recipient of UVa’s All-University Teaching Award. She currently heads the university’s J.D.-M.A. in history dual degree program.
Goluboff will be the first woman dean of the School of Law, which is consistently ranked in the top 10 among law schools nationwide.
Congratulations to Risa! Much more information is available at the UVA press release. H/t Bill Turnier.
I have recently been invited to serve as the Chair of the National Council of Advisors for Law School Transparency (LST), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. My first task is to help identify others who may wish to further the mission of LST by serving with me on the Council. Many readers of this site are undoubtedly already generally familiar with LST, which has become a major force in for developing legal education policy ideas, shaping the national debate of these ideas, and challenging law schools, state bar associations, and the American Bar Association to change business as usual. LST’s most recent report, 2015 State of Legal Education, has already generated significant debate about the current widespread practice of admitting large numbers of students with poor prospects of completing law school and passing the bar, with articles in The New York Times, Fortune, Forbes, Slate, Inside Higher Ed, The Atlantic, ABA Journal, Bloomberg, and, of course, The Faculty Lounge, among others.
LST's mission is "to make entry to the legal profession more transparent, affordable, and fair." This mission rests on three pillars:
Reform: Build a better society and profession by improving the accessibility and affordability of legal education.
Information: Enable more informed decisions by prospective law students about whether or where to attend law school and by policymakers for how to regulate law schools.
Accountability: Hold law schools and the ABA accountable for actions that concern the public, the profession, law students, and prospective students.
If you support these worthy goals, please consider joining me on the Council. I would like to create a group of advisors that is broadly inclusive, to include law professors, law school administrators, admissions professionals, consumer advocates, bar officials, members of the bar, and others interested in furthering the goals of the organization. I believe this would be an excellent way for faculty members to fulfill their obligation of service to the profession, without being an overly time-consuming commitment.
Interested individuals should contact me by sending an email to email@example.com with a very brief statement (a paragraph or two is fine) about you and why you’re interested in serving. If you would like further details, please contact me with any questions. I also welcome nominations of individuals who may be interested. Please feel free to repost this information on other relevant websites or otherwise disseminate. Thank you for considering this opportunity and I look forward to hearing from you!
LSAC has now posted the October 2015 administrations on their website. They are, in fact, up 7.4%, as Aaron Taylor said.
The Law School Admission Council has reported that 33,229 LSATs were administered in October, an increase of 7.4% over the corresponding testing last fall. This is the fourth consecutive administration of the LSAT with an increase in test-takers over corresponding administrations in the previous year.
The three previous administrations had smaller percentage increases, including the small 0.8% increase in December 2014 and increases of 4.4% and 6.6% in February and June, respectively, of this year.
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.
Institutional efforts within the law school industry are a hot topic, and one relatively new area of movement in US legal education increasingly addressed is the attempt to establish a more 'global' presence through 'international' offerings for US law students. The ABA, for instance, provides a list of current foreign summer abroad programs, intersession courses and semester abroad programs, and a quick google search turns up a number of other websites offering links to foreign program opportunities for students. At the same time, these lists tend to be incomplete (the ABA's semester abroad program list does not include a number of programs, and more generally does not provide any details about the types of study abroad programs being offered) or not directly relevant for students seeking to earn credit towards their legal degrees. The missed opportunity with more comprehensive data on international program innovations at US law schools is that it not only makes it difficult to share 'best practices' among law school administrations, but it obscures a valuable source of information about specific attitudes and trends within legal education.
US Law School International Programs (Study Abroad and Semester Exchanges) provides an excel-based study to address some of these deficiencies, with the goal to provide administrations and scholars empirical data concerning new trends in study abroad and semester exchange programs in US law schools (note: click 'download' for the excel form of the study). The study was compiled over the last year, and is organized by state to include every US based program, and includes information concerning the type of programs (e.g., study abroad programs linked to foreign universities versus independent sites), links to the individual programs, and some summary information.
Looking at the data, a few trends emerge. First, where originally only the remit of upper-tier schools, these programs are becoming staples of US law schools. Second, there is an increasing prevalence for schools to offer study abroad programs based at foreign institutions, rather than simply renting out space to host abroad programs. Third, the move to base study abroad programs at foreign institutions corresponds with an increase in offerings of LLM degrees for foreign students (and sometimes domestic students) and providing opportunities for semester exchanges. The relative lack of research or other scholarly activity at International and Comparative Law Centers suggests that these innovations are largely tailored to increase law school revenue as opposed to any significant shift of emphasis to engaging international legal policy and scholarship. Also, certain geographic locations are privileged - London, popular European city destination points, some programs in Latin America and Asia - but virtually no opportunities in Eastern Europe, Central Asia or Africa.
A lot of questions remain. For example, a number of factors are not taken into account in the study, including the actual professors running the courses, the classes being taught on these programs, and the numbers for student enrollment. It also remains to be seen where the key locations will be to attract foreign students (e.g., China, India, certain Arab speaking countries) or to base future programs (e.g., is the UK/Europe over-saturated or do the rising student fees in the UK mean opportunities to set up programs there to then attract UK students that otherwise would not be interested in a US legal education).
The LSAC has just put up the final applicant volume graph of this admissions cycle. It is reporting that "As of 8/8/15, there are 343,251 fall 2015 applications submitted by 55,702 applicants. Applicants are down 1.9% and applications are down 4.0% from 2014. Last year at this time, we had 100% of the preliminary final applicant count."
Update: Jerry Organ has just called my attention to the fact that 55,702 applicants would be an increase over last year. I'm going to look into this some more. Update shortly, I hope. I'm wondering if LSAC meant 54,702 rather than 55,702? Seems like we should have something on the order of 54,642 applicants for fall 2015.
The critiques of ABA accredited law schools are well known. Now the LA Times is exploring the world of California unaccredited law schools. Turns out that that nearly 9 out of 10 students who enroll in one of California's 22 unaccredited law schools drop out - and only about 20% of those who do finish pass the bar. The good news? They're pretty cheap. Northwestern California University School of Law is running a celebration sale of $2850/year tuition for its four year online program. That's roughly the cost, all in, of beauty school. And good government types need not worry; students in the program are not eligible for Federal loans.
Indiana Tech Law, which did not receive ABA accreditation in June, will reapply this coming year. Doing its best to recruit and retain good students, it will be offering its legal education tuition-free next year. Details here.
The LSAC has just published the administrations for the June 2015 LSAT. While some of those takers may be applying for admission this fall, the June administration is typically seen as the start of the application season for those entering in the following fall. June is also typically the third-largest administration. That is, this is our first look at where applications are headed for fall 2016. The June 2016 administrations are up 6.6% over June 2015. (This is also the third administration in a row, going back to December 2015, when there was an increase over the same administration the year before.) If this trend holds up for the remainder of the 2015-16 cycle, there will be approximately 108,440 administrations of the LSAT.
The LSAC is now reporting that "As of 7/3/15, there are 333,848 fall 2015 applications submitted by 52,506 applicants. Applicants are down 2.0% and applications are down 4.2% from 2014. Last year at this time, we had 97% of the preliminary final applicant count." If this year's applicants follow last year's pattern, there will be approximately 54,130 applicants this year. The last post in this series is here.