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July 10, 2015


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Correction. June and February are the light months. Sept/Oct and December have the most test takers.

[Thanks for this -- I've got that fixed in the original post. Al Brophy]




Those poor bastards...


There is also a trend for an increasing percent of the June test takers to be taking the test a second time. Hard to believe, but some are applicants for fall 2015.

Greg Sergienko

Interesting data point!

We've seen a deterioration of higher LSAT scores. That suggests to me that (as Anon123 thinks) a good portion of these are taking hoping to improve their scores for applications already started. The rate of decline has been declining, but I wouldn't be comfortable calling a bottom until we get data from LSAT administrations that are undoubtedly for 2016 matriculants.


And note that law school real tuition rates are still under pressure. They will be until the number of seats goes down to match.

Steven Freedman

Even more telling, according to LSAC first time test takers were up a strong 10.9%. The percentage of repeat test takers was down from 27% to 24%. Although I'd say it's still too soon to declare a definitive trend, this raises the possibility of a real turnaround.


Percentage increases are tricky.

As some say, if you have a penny and get another, that's a 100% increase, but you still only have two cents.

There were about the same number of June takers in 1988, and a greater number starting in 1991.

How many more law schools now, exactly?

Administrations were down 3.6% last year (despite slight increases in the last two sittings) and applicants were down 2% last year: and this after year after year after year after year of major declines. If these numbers were evidenced in the GDP, there would be raging and unceasing cries for reform.

In law school academia, a 2% decline in applications and a slight uptick in one administration of the LSAT is grounds to declare "THE CRISIS HAS PASSED" while the major declines are attributed to a.) a bad economy and b.) an improving economy.


Anon @ 12:07,

Your points are only made stronger by the fact that the conditions that created the crisis are still in place, and, as a result law school is a losing bet for probably 50% of current enrollees. It would be like declaring the housing crisis over because housing prices ticked up, but while lenders were still originating crazy loans to unqualified applicants. The source of the problem has still not been addressed.

I realize that faculty members are perfectly content with bad graduate outcomes so long as they continue to enroll on the front end. That is fine by me, but can we really say that we have finally hit the magic number of fools that will consistently enroll at this price/outcome level? Perhaps the allure of being a lawyer is that strong, but I tend to see some further declines absent reform based on receding cultural respect afforded to attorneys.



One quibble: lawyers have never been exactly high in public esteem ... except on tv. Probably this is related to the fact that if a lawyer is contacting you, or you need one, chances are that the circumstances won't be pleasant.

What has changed, IMHO, is the public perception of law schools as bastions of learning in the law and prestige.

The legal academy just can't seem to understand that "knowledge generation" - interpreted as a bunch of JDs pretending to be experts in fields for which they were never formally educated, trained, and experienced - is not a source of prestige or respect. Not only is their work mostly ignored by their peers, and the scholarly establishment in general, it is also a source of disdain among students and, by extension, their families, peers, internet contacts, etc. Seeming to fiddle while students suffer horrendous outcomes is not a pretty picture.

If only the legal academy could understand that their role is to train attorneys (and, by way of scholarship, improve the understanding and thus the functioning of the legal systems in our society). That historic enterprise is rejected by many, if not most, of the current crop of law profs, who were hired precisely because they demonstrated NO affinity for the practice of law.

Until this changes, law schools will not reform, and, absent such reform, as JM astutely notes, not much can be expected to change in terms of law school quality and effectiveness.



Hear Hear.

Law is a fine profession, but not one of prestige. Law school is neither school nor focused on law. Rather, the legal academy for the last generation funded jack-of-all trades opinions based on selling law as a public intellectual pseudo-science. The footnotes and haughty language distinguished legal academia from the buffoon at the local watering hole. The rest of the academy put up with it because law schools were cash cows.


Anon @ 2:40,

Well said. I agree entirely. I am amazed at how far law faculty push the envelope. They demand reduced teaching loads to work on their research, they pick increasingly narrow and theoretical specialties (1st Amendment, Equal Protection, etc.) and recently they want to research topics with barely any substantive legal component (poverty, sexuality, economic development, family dynamics, etc). It makes me happy that so many of these aspiring profs have been trapped as practicing lawyers during the slowdown in academic hiring.


Exactly. Faux social scientists, economists, philosophers, ethnographers, meditation and mindfulness gurus, etc. etc.: often with no formal education, training or experience in these specialized fields of study, and possessing nothing by way of the preparation that would be required to land a position in the appropriate department of the university. (It is so risible that some believe that law schools are affiliated with universities to facilitate this pretense, given the historic reasons for such affiliations.)

There they are - dilettantes of all sorts, deeply embedded in legal academia, with little or no experience in legal practice, and often, a disdain for attorneys - spinning out an occasional piece that few will ever read that will be of no benefit to the legal profession in any sense whatsoever (or anyone else, as dilettantes seldom understand that the shallowness of their amateurish approach to unfamiliar fields of scholarship would not withstand review in the appropriate departments of the university).

Is it any wonder these folks are increasing unable to prepare their graduates for the legal marketplace? That the better students care not to study in such institutions of dilettantism and idle self interest? The crass reduction of all considerations and explanations by the law academy to money and prestige only underscores their self interested approach to every issue.

The top tier has been feeding off the seed corn for a long time now, btw. It won't be long till the dysfunctional and misguided policies in hiring reach them (to a certain extent, this has already happened). A rising tide of failure, so to speak, will reach the top floors last.

One thing is for sure, those with an affinity for the practice of law would bring to the academy, e.g.: a.) a knowledge of current issues in legal practice and a sense of the needs in the market for legal services, b.) a practical sense of the differences that different approaches to the law in practice make in society, at all levels and for all persons, c.) a different work ethic, d.) a desire to once again concentrate on the subjects of legal scholarship that made the "greats" great, that is, legal scholarship, e.) a deeper connection to the community of attorneys and clients, and f.) a deeper sense of public service to their communities(this, especially, is woefully absent in legal academia).

Or we can look at continuing declines (and the further dysfunction that these persistent declines engender) and celebrate when the decline reaches 2%!

One can only hope that some will realize that the "decline" is not over because of this.



"To prove these things, I, a former litigator whose highest achievement in mathematics was heretofore a B-minus in Trigonometry in college, had to learn something of study design, case coding, and -- most terrifyingly -- statistics."



Anon at 4:52 -- this is exactly right.


Ironically, the type of professor anon @ 4:52 identifies would be better for students actually exist in the academy, but they exist largely in Tier 4 schools that many of the commenters here think are despicable. I teach at such a school and have (had?) extensive, high-level practice experience (i.e., more than a decade in BigLaw with objective success).


Practice Prof

Depends how you measure "objective success."

My reference to "b.) a practical sense of the differences that different approaches to the law in practice make in society, at all levels and for all persons," was not idle.

Two words demonstrate the point: Wall Street.

If you think that this "high level" criminality is "success" then you did indeed exist in BigLaw with "objective success" as defined there. (Are all "BigLaw" attorneys criminal? No. Only those who serve the clients of "BigLaw" firms which seek to engage in unethical, criminal conduct and use highly paid attorneys as tools to accomplish these ends.)

The incompetence of the legal education that has produced greedy, amoral attorneys at the highest level of the economy is a function, largely, of the inattention and indifference of the dilettantes in legal academia, who never knew the practice of law and hardly had any love for it, to what really matters: training aspirants to become attorneys worthy of their profession.

Too many are too busy trying to "learn something of study design, case coding, and -- most terrifyingly -- statistics" in order to produce "scholarship" of the sort in vogue these days among the attorney phobic actors in legal academia. Hence, the problem.

Don't sniff and look down your nose at the poor souls in Tier 4 schools. They can and should be serving a very valuable service in society too. And, as pointed out above, the top tier schools are still gorging on the seed corn. The rising tide of failure will reach the top floors last.

That is the reason some can preposterously claim that the "crisis is over."



In other words, the aspirants at top level law schools desperately need, as much as any others, the guidance and judgment conveyed by those who know the law as it is effected and who appreciate the need for constant reform and improvement of the legal systems that guide our lives.

Students from all strata can contribute to this grand enterprise, if properly instructed.

Thus inspire the aspirants, thus instruct and prepare them, and watch a REAL turnaround in the enrollment numbers.

Continue as is: one wouldn't predict much better than we've seen recently.

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