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July 10, 2014

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terry malloy

What you are seeing in the second-time takers is a better informed consumer.

This would scare me if I were a law school admin attempting to stench the bleeding.

Sticker price? Yeah . . . that's not going to work. Let's talk about how low you'll go to get those rear ends in the seats.

(N.B. Apparently, no-one has listened to Admissions Dean Freedman.)

JM

What a blow to law schools! After two years of slowing down, the decline actually accelerates!

I've said it for a while, the driving force behind the decline in applications is the increase in tuition. It is not the economy or the curriculum.

Profs, until you address cost, this trend will continue at a fast pace.

Nathan A

The economy has been picking up some recently. It wouldn't surprise me if the drop in test takers tracks with a rise in the employment prospects of recent college graduates.

At the end of the day, the drop in test takers doesn't really matter. All that will happen is that more law schools in the bottom rung will move toward a defacto open admissions policy.

As much as people want to berate law professors at second rate institutions, its worth remembering that it is the students who attend lousy law schools that are ultimately making the decision to ruin their lives. Even if you stapled a copy each school's LST Report to everyone's loan paperwork, a lot of these students (who couldn't be bothered to study for the LSAT or get good grades in college) will no doubt believe they can "work hard" and graduate as one of the handful of success stories these institutions churn out each year. Optimism bias is a bi$#h.

Former Editor

"At the end of the day, the drop in test takers doesn't really matter. All that will happen is that more law schools in the bottom rung will move toward a defacto open admissions policy."

I'm not sure that even a de facto open admission policy will save some of these schools. Optimism bias only goes so far. Look at Indiana Tech.

PO

anon: You say "So far, you seem to say that: protecting the jobs of "non faculty staff" and "capital investments in buildings" and persevering the "value" of the JD degrees already obtained from these institutions and hoping for a return to "good times" are the plausible reasons to retain ABA accreditation for such law schools."

I was commenting on what constitutes good news, which to me isn't the prospect of closing 30-40 schools; good news to me would constitute things turning around for students and grads and, at the same time, reform. If times continue to be bad -- as they are likely to be -- reducing new JDs is sound, and I also hope students won't select your 5% schools and get 150k in debt. So we generally agree as to what's appropriate, given what I regard as bad news and some others seem to regard as (reflected) good news. I do separately stress the costs associated with closures, including turning degrees into scrip. Since you've taken me to task, sometimes fairly, I'd only note that your 5% is not quite the same as the 30-40 closures others were anticipating. I'm also not sure that the first to go will be the worst . . . informational issues and financial asymmetries play an outsized role in the survival game.

You come close to attributing to me the view that the ABA should stay the course because closure costs are so prohibitive that everyone should just hope for improvement. I see where you got this, from what I styled as genuinely good news, but I don't favor this based on the bad news that seems to keep coming. ABA accreditation is a mystery, save that I doubt it will ever be good at policing schools, and probably cannot take on the broader task of managing the supply side. Anyway, I don't think the concerns I mention are more important than how the worst schools are performing in real time -- they're just collateral costs that should be considered, and leave me down when others (perhaps not you) simply crow "good riddance." I do hope that closures happen to schools that can't adjust, and less based on short-term exigencies, because of these collateral costs. Maybe if you gave me a wand, I would immediately close some and reform others dramatically, but to state the obvious, I'd first use that wand to improve employment.

Can't respond any more until Monday, at earliest, when attentions will have wondered. Appreciate how you have pressed this issue, even if we don't see it the same way.

anon123

I do not think the problem is with students who didn't bother to prepare for LSAT or study undergrad. It is possible for those students to improve in Law School. The more difficult problem is with respect to those students who did prep for LSAT and did study in college. Those students have done all they can, and yet may not be able to succeed in law school or on bar.

JM

Nathan A,

You're wrong. The application drop is having a huge impact on the schools ranked 15-100. So much that it is the predominate focus on most legal blogs these days. Increasingly, these schools have to pay huge scholarships to attract students of average talent. It is killing their revenue.

You are right in a way that the schools at the bottom are the last to be affected. They don't care about admissions standards, so it doesn't matter if they decline.

Finally, the bottom 20% of applicants are unlikely to pass the bar exam, so, for those interested in the # of people entering the profession, it is effectively as though they were never admitted.

Nathan A

"You're wrong. The application drop is having a huge impact on the schools ranked 15-100. So much that it is the predominate focus on most legal blogs these days."

Most definitely not true. Schools ranked 15-100 had no problem letting their median LSAT slip about two points over the last three years. Letting them slip another 1-2 points doesn't really matter as long as most of your competitors are doing the same (which they are). If you pit solvency against enrolling a class with a median 1pt higher, solvency wins. All the time.

Nathan A

(https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AuH-BqWULdrxdGRLd2hBdm5NVHlMY3VqN2Y0QXdXZnc#gid=0)

Like I said, for T15-100. Letting medians drop ain't no big deal when faced with a drop in applicants.

troubled graduate

Of note is the drop in June takers (2,195) overall is greater than in the past two years. Even more telling is the decline in first time test takers. Given that many schools towards the bottom are nearing 100% acceptance rates, at some point they will not be able to gain more applicants unless the LSAT is eliminated for admissions. Even if they do fill their classes they will not be at sticker. Many schools are offering "scholarships" to lower students than in the past. Additionally unlike in past years the big classes have graduated, so fewer students will be covering costs in general. This academic year will likely see more downgrades by Moodys etc.

My question at this point is how small can schools go before they are forced to close? The set costs of the schools now being spread among fewer students can make matters worse. The actions of DOE towards Corinthian are a sign, that the gigs up.

Yes, even T-15-100

Nathan A - Most of the T15-100 schools dropped class sizes in 2011 and 2012, then dropped their LSATs in 2013. I think if you compare the most recent class to the classes the recent height of the applicant pool (say 2007,2008,2009 or 2010), you would see a drop in class size of 20% or more on average for T15-100. And probably more drops this year.

JM

"Most definitely not true. Schools ranked 15-100 had no problem letting their median LSAT slip about two points over the last three years. Letting them slip another 1-2 points doesn't really matter as long as most of your competitors are doing the same (which they are). If you pit solvency against enrolling a class with a median 1pt higher, solvency wins. All the time."

I agree 100% that they are willing to drop standards. I still think that takes a negative toll.

Anyway, the big issue for schools is merit scholarships. It is a big time buyers market right now, and schools have to really fight over the same dwindling pool of applicants. Thus, even if a 156 is the "new normal" median LSAT, schools like Davis and Hasting still engage in a price war to attract these students. They are forced to offer more money to a 156 now than they would offer to a 163 five years ago.

This is causing some pain, believe me.

Nathan A

"Anyway, the big issue for schools is merit scholarships. It is a big time buyers market right now, and schools have to really fight over the same dwindling pool of applicants. Thus, even if a 156 is the "new normal" median LSAT, schools like Davis and Hasting still engage in a price war to attract these students. They are forced to offer more money to a 156 now than they would offer to a 163 five years ago."

Again, I am not seeing how the basic dynamic changes. If schools target a lower median LSAT, scholarship offers simply target candidates with lower credentials than in years past. Its possible that the yield on scholarship offers has risen, thereby cutting into schools' coffers. But that's it.

But sure, the drop in Applicants has taken a toll on some school outside the T50. Not every law school is as unscrupulous as the Factory of Sadness (American University).

Just saying...

Seems to me that there is a huge difference between school 15 and school 100; schools in this broad range are not all in the same boat. Also have to factor in market, state v. private v. independent status. I know of several private schools in the closer-to-100 range in competitive markets are in big trouble. Stealth layoffs/buyouts of non-faculty have let some with a skeleton admin staff. Of those I am most familiar with, they are just waiting until the semester begins to see how the reductions affect students and faculty.

P.S. Even with these reductions, they are not likely to be in the black.

BoredJD

The very bottom tier schools are somewhat constrained in who they can accept by the ABA's bar passage standards, but there are plenty of loopholes and strategies that can hold off the reckoning. As for willing applicants, these schools target the students who are the least likely to stumble across counterarguments to law school.

I do not think closing those schools would really have any concrete effects on the recent alumni, since pretty much everyone who cares already knows about their reputations. What it would really hurt is the egos of the older, successful alumni, and of course successful people in America cannot ever be made to feel bad about themselves.

anon

PO

Thank you for your comments. I do think we agree that, at least at the very extreme, there are some law schools that do not merit ABA accreditation: remembering that accreditation is the key to inducing and obtaining federal student loan revenue (using students as conduits).

A track record of unusually poor bar pass rates that have not budged in material ways for years except when addressed sporadically by academic disqualification of second and third year students, abysmal employment stats (and a history of demonstrably misleading conduct to disguise these facts), and shockingly low admission standards (e.g., median at or below the 20% percentile on the LSAT) should all be strong indicia of failure. Combine these indicia with tuition greater than 20,000 per year and one could reasonably conclude that enough is enough and that this law school should lose its ABA accreditation.

If these are not the right criteria: What criteria are the ABA employing, and from how many law schools has it withdrawn accreditation in the last 20 years?

anon123

Has the ABA EVER withdrawn its accreditation (as opposed to not accrediting)? Has the federal government EVER imposed a serious penalty for not complying with rules other accrediting bodies must comply with, such as consideration of student loan default rates, job placement?

anon

Anyone want a good laugh on this lovely Friday?

Add the usual prefix for an internet address to this, and have a look at the ABA standards:

americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publications/misc/legal_education/Standards/2013_2014_final_aba_standards_and_rules_of_procedure_for_approval_of_law_schools_body.authcheckdam.pdf

In particular, these:

Standard 501. ADMISSIONS, Interpretation 501-3, Interpretation 501-4, Interpretation 501-4

Standard 503. ADMISSION TEST

Standard 509. REQUIRED DISCLOSURES, Interpretation 509-2

Standard 510. STUDENT LOAN PROGRAMS, Interpretation 510-1, Interpretation 510-2

I ask again, What criteria does the ABA find meaningful? Surely, not those set forth by its rules.

BTW, the fonts in these rules are truly impressive.

Good work, ABA!

anon

Add

For an even more hilarious read, see

Rule 16. Sanctions

Same document.

Perhaps these days, only the minions of legal academia are members of the ABA.

Just saying...

As others have pointed out, the ABA Section on Legal Ed is controlled by profs and admins from mediocre law schools, who have no intention of raising Standards in any meaningful way.

Cooley's Ann Arbor campus was only accredited by the ABA in the past year or so, and now it is likely to close. Shows you the close scrutiny the ABA accreditation folks give to the schools that come before it.

I do believe that LaVerne in CA lost accreditation a few years ago and is not trying to get it back. It was a CA accredited law school for many years. I think the reason for the lost accreditation was poor bar pass rate over a period of years.

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