Search the Lounge


« Paul McGreal Named Dean Of Creighton Law | Main | Late Nineteenth Century University Building Trivia »

January 28, 2015


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


The thing I find most interesting isn't the ongoing YoY decline in applicants. Rather, it is the ongoing and accelerating YoY decline in applications. When combined with the collapse of LSAT scores at the low end a story is emerging of a flight to quality.

A few thoughts:
1. Law school now is open to pretty much everyone with BA.
2. The top 10 or so schools remain strong and vibrant.
3. There is a great deal of tuition discounting going on at schools ranked below 25, making pricing opaque.
4. Schools that are not the strongest in their geographic region are getting pummeled by competition from their neighbors.


"4. Schools that are not the strongest in their geographic region are getting pummeled by competition from their neighbors."

This is an excellent point. Most people apply to law schools that are within their region. The weakest school in the area is getting the fewest applicants and the most transfers out. It's not simply which law school is at the bottom of US News & Report. It's which law school is the weakest in their particular market.

Just saying...

Justin: True that the weakest schools are getting few good applicants, but I wonder if their students are able to transfer out in large numbers. For example, we saw the huge number of students transferring out of American in D.C., but it is by far not one of the worst law schools in the region. Can large numbers of students transfer out of Catholic, D.C. Law??

In NYC, can students transfer in large numbers from NYLS, Touro, CUNY?? My sense is no, they cannot. So maybe these weak law schools can hold on to their students better than the slightly better American in D.C., St. Johns, Brooklyn, Hofstra in NYC.


Why does the graph suggest "applicants" is on track with last year, not down?

Al Brophy

Anon, the graphs aren't precise. This problem stretches back to last year, I think. One thing I'm wondering about is when we're going to stop declining in applicants. Pretty obviously this year will be worse than last year. I'm just not sure of next year will be worse than this one. I'm thinking we may see a decline next year, too.


Just Saying,

The lowest ranking schools may not have a ton of transfers out (although I am sure there are some) but they will have almost zero transfers in. They will also be more susceptible to attrition for other reasons, such as flunk outs (to the extent the school does that) and, more likely, drop outs.

I do think there is something to your point that the rung of schools just above the bottom, perhaps extending to the middle (e.g. American) have been the biggest losers recently. Just not enough quality students falling to them, unlike the bottom feeders and they have the burden of retaining some semblance of respectability.


Well lower this report, but overall the number of applicants looks to be slightly up from last year at this point. Lines are on top of each other so I think in the end this year may be up. Guess all the "scam bloggers" are going to be disappointed that the numbers have finally stabilized. Go green line go!



Thank you for your usual perceptiveness and fair minded viewpoint. We all need to consider the quality of the astute observations you so kindly provide, especially, here, your observation of that green line! A virtual window into the soul of legal academia!

BTW, you might want to cite Simkovic here as well!

Green Line

Please stop picking on me! I am doing the best job that I can. Not my fault that the LSAC graph drew me wrong! Thanks,

Green Line


Just saying, Taking NY as an example, I do think some students from say Touro or NYLS may transfer to Brooklyn or Cardozo. I also agree, they will lose some with students who drop out (or flunk out). Some may shop around for aid money.


"Some may shop around for aid money."

Or the smarter and tougher ones will sit down with the dean, and say (politely) that they'll drop out if the price isn't reduced sharply.

Ray Campbell

The year to year decline understates the budgetary impact. The class of 2015 will be replaced by the class of 2018, which will reflect not one year of decline but three. Add to that transfers out, increased discounting of tuition, and exhaustion of rainy day funds, and some schools are going to be hard pressed.

Does any one know whether the decline of top applicants is continuing? Put differently, are we still seeing a decline in the kinds of students whose GPAs and grades project admission to top law schools and eventual securing of desirable jobs?


"One thing I'm wondering about is when we're going to stop declining in applicants. Pretty obviously this year will be worse than last year. I'm just not sure of next year will be worse than this one. I'm thinking we may see a decline next year, too."


If the number of LSAT administrations is any indication, there will be less applicants next year. Assuming the number of LSAT takers remains the same for the February exam, there will be less than 101,000 LSAT takers in the 2014-2015 cycle, which is the lowest number LSAC has on record dating back to 1987.

The data is available on the LSAC website under resources - lsats administered


I should have said fewer applicants.

Al Brophy

I think that's right. As I mentioned a few weeks back, we're about 5.5% off the pace of LSAT administrations from last year:


Just saying and JM:

Lots of students are transferring out of the lowest ranked schools. In large numbers. That's been going on for many, many years, and the numbers have increased since the crash began. Students jump from the bottom (unranked by USNEWS, entrance qualifications, however you want to "measure" that) to as high as the top 25. It just depends on how much the higher ranked schools want to hide their true LSAT and UGPA numbers by taking smaller numbers in their first year and then making up the revenue by taking buckets of transfers (whose LSAT and UGPA don't have to ever be reported).

Many students arrive in their first year with the explicit plan of transferring. Some higher ranked schools tell students they can't admit them as 1L's but that they will admit them as transfers if they pass their first year. Some schools will compare published Dean's Lists with students they rejected the year before and then recruit them to transfer.

The numbers are BIG. And you are correct that it is the schools ranked at the bottom that have less ability to make up for transfers out with transfers in.


I'm not sure the current LSAT numbers tell us anything about next year's applicant numbers. Anyone taking the LSAT now, or even through this summer, is pretty much in this year's applicant pool. To some extent the June LSAT numbers and then the fall LSAT numbers will tell us about those applicants that will be starting in the fall of 2016.

I fully recognize that I may be confused about what you were trying to point out though.


What is so striking is the continuing decline, in any amount.

Of course, one would expect a bottom somewhere, and, unlike gravity, as the number of applicants reaches that bottom, the rate of decrease will slow? Seems so.

That we haven't hit the bottom yet, howver, is sort of striking. Clearly, the applicant pool doesn't sense that in three years JD required jobs will be aplenty, or, perhaps, the damage to the reputation of legal academia of late will simply take a long, long time to repair.

One senses the latter thesis is the most plausible. If so, the fact that law schools have only marginally, if at all, changed their programs, and the fact that the expressed attitudes, interests, and hiring patterns of legal academicians have changed seemingly imperceptibly, means that the bottom may be years away.

Just saying...

Altprof: Thanks for the information. I just wonder why these mid-tier schools would take transfers from the bottom feeder schools if there is a strong possibility based on their incoming 1L credentials that they may very well fail the bar. Obviously, they must have done well in their 1L year, but still.....

In terms of the ongoing decline and the fact that there appears to be no bottom here, I really think that this has been a perfect storm in that the prospective students are part of a generation, the Millennials, that appear to have a different outlook on life than previous generations. Everything I have read describes them as not being as focused on career and status and home ownership and all the other things that every previous generation valued and strove for. Couple that attitude with the cost of legal ed and the poor job prospects and the low opinion most lawyers have of their careers and there you go....


At least at my school, law school GPA is a much better predictor of bar passage than LSAT or UGPA, so as long as the transfers did relatively well at a decent law school, I imagine the risk of failing the bar is not too great.

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • StatCounter
Blog powered by Typepad