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?
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.”
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?
The Law School Admission Council reported that the LSAT was given 129,925 times in the 2011-12 academic year. That was well off the 155,050 of the year before and far from the peak of 171,514 in the year before that. In all, the number of test takers has fallen by nearly 25 percent in the last two years.
Is that all? As Mona Lisa Vito says in My Cousin Vinny, “No, dere’s more!”:
The decline reflects a spreading view that the legal market in the United States is in terrible shape and will have a hard time absorbing the roughly 45,000 students who are expected to graduate from law school in each of the next three years. And the problem may be deep and systemic. Many lawyers and law professors have argued in recent years that the legal market will either stagnate or shrink as technology allows more low-end legal work to be handled overseas, and as corporations demand more cost-efficient fee arrangements from their firms.
I am not against becoming a lawyer. I am against becoming a lawyer without serious consideration of one’s prospects for a satisfying legal career. Evidently others are concluding the same.
In a post titled “You (and 60,000 Others) Have Taken the LSAT. Now Read This” the WSJ Law Blog urges you college seniors applying in record numbers to take the LSAT to re-examine your path. While the advice is not news to anyone who has followed my posts I recommend it because (1) one should always pass along good advice and (2) the post closes with a line I use frequently when advising students to live more of their lives before exploring the mysteries of Rule 12(b)(6): law school will always be there.