Statistically speaking, people who are currently in law school scored more poorly on the LSAT than the classes that came before. That doesn’t mean they are dumber — and I doubt any law school professor has the stones to do a study on whether or not the students are dumber now than they were before the recession. But it might mean that the current crop of law students were less prepared to enter law school than earlier classes.
We’ve documented the “brain drain” from the law school applicant pool. In 2012, by which point the idiocy of going to law school was plain to see by any who were watching, the number of students applying to law school with an LSAT score over 170 was down over 20%. Meanwhile, the number of applicants with LSAT scores in the 140- 144 range was only down 6.2%. High scorers were taking a pass while low scorers were saying “wow, I wonder who left this fruit here hanging so low to the ground.”
But now, it appears that trend is reversing. That’s probably bad news for the worst law schools…
On Slate, Jordan Weissmann looked into the LSAT scores for 2014 law school applicants. Here’s the chart showing the change in the numbers:
Here’s what that chart looked like in 2012.
As you can see, the overall numbers of high LSAT scorers is down even as compared to 2012. So you can’t really say that high scorers are coming “back” to law school. I think what I said in 2012 still holds true:
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.
Good scores = good options = better options than law school.
But, I think the new numbers show that the value of a good LSAT score is being appreciated by those who are hell bent in going to law school anyway. Getting a high score means getting into a better school or going to law school for free. This slight shift in the applicant pool suggests to me that prospective law students are thinking more critically about their decisions. And that’s certainly a good thing.
Of course, the largest overall number of applicants remains the chunk of people who score between 150-159, and that fact remains disturbing. Scoring in the mid-150s is an LSAT no-man’s land in this market. It’s not really good enough to get into a top-50 school, but if you do get in, you’ll certainly be paying full price. But to get a full ride you might have to drop clear out of the top-100. If you rock in with a 156, your choice could be something like: full price at Baylor, partial scholarship at LSU, full ride at Texas Tech. That’s the law school equivalent of being chained to a bomb with a hacksaw in your lap.
The picture on Weissman’s article is one of the HLS law library with the caption: “It’s not such a bad time to apply to Harvard Law after all.” That caption proceeds from the false premise that anybody ever said it was a “bad” time to apply to HLS, and is certainly a far cry from Weissmann’s “Apply to Law School Now!” article that was
mocked marked-up here.
But yes, if you are one of the 600 or so people that can punch a 175 of the LSAT, law school might be right for you. And if you can’t break 150, you should seriously consider staying away. Maybe prospective law students are learning the difference between swimming and drowning. Then again, maybe not.