Wednesday, March 13, 2013
The Visible Deterioration of Law School Quality
A red flag is signaling the potential deterioration of quality at a significant number of law schools. LSAT medians rise and fall by a point or two over time at many law schools, usually in conjunction with changes in the size of the overall applicant pool and the standing of a particular school. That in itself is not a concern—problems arise, however, when law schools accept students who would not have gained admission in years past. Applicants with low LSAT/GPA scores, in particular, have a higher risk of failing out and a higher risk of not passing the bar exam.
Would that be the same John O'Brien under whose *leadership* ABA Section on Legal Education ultimately vetoed the proposal to include salary information in the 2011-present employment outcomes, despite pressure from Senator Grassley? Of the same New England Law Boston that has had only 3 or 4 graduates join large law firms since 2011, and whose tuition is now the equal of Harvard or BC's?
I've been wondering how the bar exam administrators will react in 3-4 years time. Lower LSATs will presumably result in lower MBE exam peformance and lower overall credentials will presumably result in worse performance on the essay portions.
Will the bars hold to historical standards and reject record numbers of exam takers? Or will the bars keep passing the same percentage of exam takers? If it's the former . . .
Professor, you're missing a big factor here in the increased acceptance rate - the large increase in the number of applications per applicant. In 2003, 98,300 applicants submitted 522,800 applications, or 5.3 applications per applicant. In 2012, 68,000 applicants submitted 469,600 applications, or 6.9 per applicant.
To put it another way, if students had applied with the same frequency in 2012 as they did in 2003, law schools would have received only 360,400 applications, or 109,200 fewer than they actually did. If rates had stayed constant, the accept rate would have been significantly lower.
Oh, and for the bottom half, they've *got* to be suffering, since applicants will now get into schools which would have turned them down before. The bottom half will have some combination of lowering tuition rates, cutting seats (and gross revenues) and accepting people who are highly likely to flunk out/fail the bar.
Barry - I think your formulas are a bit off. In 2003, law schools enrolled 46,200 students from 98,300 applicants (47%). In 2012, an estimated 41,000 students enrolled from an app pool of 68,000(68%).
Listen, I absolutely agree that the declining applicant pool will result in schools being less selective with a higher acceptance rate. I also agree it's a situation worthy of discussion. It's just you overestimate the impact by referencing school acceptance rates without factoring in the increased number of applications per applicant. It's simple math. SF
I am aware of the increase in applications owing to electronic applications. I don't mention it because it does not change the bottom line: how many applicants there are relative to how many seats law schools are trying to fill.
This year there will be about 55,000 applicants--law schools have accepted more than 55,000 applicants every year for the past decade (although 2012 acceptance figures have not yet been published by LSAC). That alone is a compelling indication that law schools will dig deep in the applicant pool (even with shrinkage).
This means that people with low LSAT/GPAs will get in this year who would have been denied admissions in years past. That is the point of my post--which you appear to accept.
Barry's numbers purport represent the ratio of acceptances to applicants; your numbers represent the ratio of enrolled acceptances to applicants. Because a substantial number of accepted applicants do not enroll, there is no reason to think either your numbers or Barry's numbers are wrong.
LSAC tracks both applications and applicants, and though it is true that the number of applications per applicant has risen, it does not follow as a matter of simple math (at least as I understand it) that acceptance rates rise as an artifact of the increased number of applications per applicant. We do not know how those extra applications are distributed -- do those students apply to two more stretch schools, mid range schools, or fallback schools? Are the students who apply to more law schools than in past years distributed randomly throughout the applicant pool, or do they cluster within one or more ranges within the pool? If I'm a higher LSAT student, I might apply to HYS this year because I think the decreased number of applicants increases my chance for a stretch admission, but I may not apply to more lower ranked schools since I can expect my application to a lower ranked school to be that much more of a sure thing in a declining market. If I allocate my two extra applications to HYS as stretch schools, then acceptance rates at HYS will fall, not rise, as an artifact of the increased number of stretch applications to those schools. Without knowing much more about how the increased number of applications are distributed among applicants and among law schools, it seems to me that no conclusion can be drawn about how the increase in applications per applicant will affect acceptance rates at any particular school.
Like Mike, I don't get your "simple math" assertion. But let me come at it another way. If I recall correctly, the increase in the number applications per applicant that you mention took place about 7 or so years ago. What that means is that the recent deterioration I show from 2009, to 2010, to 2011, are all based upon the same higher average number of applications.
So your point, even if it does has some bearing (and I'm not clear that it does, pace Mike), has no relevance to the dramatic increase in acceptance rates at many law schools in the past few years.
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I absolutely agree that the declining applicant pool will result in schools being less selective with a higher acceptance rate. I also agree it's a situation worthy of discussion. It's just you overestimate the impact by referencing school acceptance rates without factoring in the increased number of applications per applicant. It's simple math.
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In 2003, 98,300 applicants submitted 522,800 applications, or 5.3 applications per applicant. In 2012, 68,000 applicants submitted 469,600 applications, or 6.9 per applicant.Post a Comment
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