I’m still trying to figure out the appropriate way to “take credit” for the decline in the number of people taking the LSAT. Currently, I’m consulting with a red-haired chick on the procedure for calling me Lightbringer.
But my work is clearly not done. The big news today is that the new numbers released by LSAC show that the decline in LSAT takers disproportionately affects top performers on the LSAT. Basically, fewer high scorers are taking the LSAT, while the number of people who can’t even break 145 remains strong.
Doesn’t that really match our anecdotal beliefs that people applying to law school in 2012, with all the data and the publicity about the bad deal you get at an American law school, are just dumber than those who came before?
The Atlantic frames the new LSAC numbers perfectly:
Take a look at the chart below, which shows the number of applications from prospective students in each LSAT range for 2012. Here’s the take away: 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.
Evidently, the decline in LSAT takers will not hurt the bottom-feeding law schools that much. That’s because the low-hanging fruit that they pick off are still out there in abundance. I don’t think that the LSAT is a particularly good measure of anything, but not being able to break 140 on it is probably a decent indication that you can barely read (and even when you sound out the words you don’t learn anything from them).
Which is probably why those people are still eager to apply to law school. When they read a blog post saying, “LAW SCHOOL WILL STEAL YOUR MONEY,” they understand, “School will turn you money into steel, which is even more valuable than paper.”
I don’t know, maybe they don’t hear that, it’s just hard for me to put myself in the shoes of a person who can’t break 140 yet still thinks they should go to law school. That’s like me showing up at the London Olympics expecting to be allowed to compete in the 100-meter hurdles.
But there’s another reason the dumber people are being left behind in law school. It’s because the smarter people have more options. For most people, being a lawyer sounds like a boring thing to do. Safe and relatively well-paid, but boring as all hell. As the economy gets better, people with skills — even if their only skills are being awesome at taking tests — find that there are other, less boring options out there. In a good economy, smarter people feel better at taking risks. Hell, if things don’t work out, they can always go back to law school.
What we’re seeing here is a bit of a legal brain drain. It’s a drain that will continue to happen as the economy improves, and legal education continues to be wildly over priced relative to the expected value of the education. If law schools want to attract smarter people, they’ll have to start offering a better deal.
But in the meantime, there appear to be plenty of people dumb enough to continue buying what law schools are selling.
Wouldn’t it be funny if we get to the point where law school is what you do when you aren’t smart enough to do anything else? Wouldn’t it be a riot if it’s actually been like that all along?
The Wrong People Have Stopped Applying to Law School [The Atlantic]