Law School Decision Flowchart

Created by attorney Samuel Browning, based on Paul Campos’s book Don’t Go to Law School (Unless) (Amazon), and published initially on Matt Leichter’s Law School Tuition Bubble blog–this flowchart is the best one-stop presentation I’ve seen on the topic. It is must reading for every student considering whether to attend law school, and more efficient than locating and digesting my many blog posts over the years on the same topic. A discussion yesterday with a current student with a recent interest in law prompted me to break my half-year blog-posting sabbatical.

Law School Flowchart

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Shrinking the Pie

It’s a tough time to be a recent graduate of, attending, or applying to law school. The job market stinks, law school is expensive, and everyone is eager to share the latest news. Kaplan Test Prep reported recently that “51% of law schools have cut the size of the entering class” due to the difficult job market. Whether this is bad news depends on where you sit. Reduced enrolment benefits current students and graduates seeking their first jobs while raising the bar (no pun intended) for prospective students.

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Choking on the Law

LSAC.org–the LSAT and law-school application mothership’s website–has been unreachable all morning. I’ve been trying without success to log on since 6 am to submit a recommendation. It’s a small inconvenience to me; I’ll rely on Plan B, the U.S. Postal Service. I imagine, though, it is deeply frustrating for thousands of anxious law-school applicants. I’m curious about the cause–overload from those hoping to get their score for last Saturday’s exam? Or from those canceling their score?

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Blind Certainty

Yeah, I know. I haven’t posted in weeks. The posting pump was primed, finally, by echoes of prior AFC  posts found in an Above the Law article: If Law Graduates Had to Do It All Over Again, They Wouldn’t Be So Stupid. What’s “it?”

The ability to learn from other people’s mistakes is a mark of intelligence, but it’s not a skill shared by your average prospective law student. Despite an internet full of information, they continue to make the same mistakes when it comes to choosing a law school.

ATL quotes from a Kaplan survey titled Advice from Law School Grads to Law School Applicants: Instead of Rankings, Focus on Law Schools’ Job Placement Rates and Affordability–which conveys, pretty much, the survey’s content:

In response to the question “What is most important to you when picking a law school to apply to?” nearly a third of respondents (32%) to a Kaplan survey of LSAT students* cited law school rankings as the most important evaluation factor, outdistancing all other factors. In fact, 86% said law school rankings are “very important” or “somewhat important” in deciding where to apply.

Apparently, though, three years of law school may cause aspiring lawyers to reprioritize. Among new law school graduates, only 17% of respondents . . . selected law school rankings as their top answer to “Which of the following factors would you tell prospective law students should be the most important when picking where to apply?” Instead, nearly half recommend prioritizing either a law school’s job placement rate or its affordability/tuition (each factor garnered 24%). Other factors, including geographic location and academic programming, trailed further back.

In stark contrast, only 13% of pre-law students cited affordability/tuition as their most important evaluation factor in deciding where to apply to law school, and even fewer, just 8%, considered schools’ job placement rates to be their top priority. (Emphasis added)

ATL notes that the “‘certainty score’ of new law students is through the roof. They believe they’re doing the right thing, and you can’t tell them otherwise.” The lead partner in my old firm touted that in the courtroom he was “sometimes wrong, but never uncertain.” Unquestioned self-certainty is not always an asset.

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It’s Whimsy, Not Actual Math

Re: Parsing LSAT Stats: My fanciful point, unrelated to real-world arithmetic, is that future law school classes will be so heavily populated by underperformers that the bottom half won’t accommodate them. I do know that it is not actually possible for the bottom half of a class to contain more than 50% of its students–but law students can display fantastical perceptions of their chances of success relative to their peers: see Law–The Faith-Based Career Choice and Law: The Cuddly Profession (”In a recent survey of 330 prelaw student by Kaplan Test Prep, 52% felt “very confident” that they would land a legal job after graduation, although only 16% felt confident that most of their fellow graduates would be as successful.”

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Parsing LSAT Stats

The latest indignity for those thinking of becoming lawyers: Are Smartest People Avoiding Law School? Stats Show Bigger Drop in High LSAT Applicants.

Are the wrong people losing interest in law school?

That’s the question posed by the Atlantic, which notes a 13.6 percent drop in applicants who scored highest on the Law School Admission Test, but only a 4.3 percent drop in applicants who scored the lowest.

The linked Atlantic article includes a chart of the year-to-date percentage changes in the those taking the for ranked by LSAT score, e.g. 140-144. The Atlantic characterizes the results:

The number of students applying who probably have no business going to law school has dropped the least. The number of students applying who probably should apply to law school has dropped the most . . .

[T]he smart kids got the memo. Law school is largely a losing game, and they’re not going to play, even though they can probably count on a better hand than most. Meanwhile, the number of laggards applying has barely budged.

Of course this means less competition at the top of the law school heap. Hmm . . . can more than 50% of law students land in the bottom half of their class?

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