LSAT

I’ve liked working in law and am taking the LSAT next month despite law school being mostly a really poor decision (especially for someone like me who doesn’t like debt).

– Meghan, a young American woman working at a boutique law firm in Istanbul, Turkey, discussing her plans for the future in an interview with Mike Dang of The Billfold. Meghan claims that if she doesn’t perform well on the LSAT, she won’t apply to law school.

Despite my consistent exhortations that people should do as well as possible on the LSAT, I don’t think the LSAT is a particularly useful test. The LSAT, like all other standardized tests, is really an examination of past performance and learned ability to take the test. It doesn’t measure “raw” intelligence, however you want to define that term. It measures your ability to take the LSAT.

I had thought that your ability to do well on the LSAT would be predict your ability to do well on the bar exam. Again, not because of any intelligence measuring, but just because people who are good at standardized tests tend to continue to be good at standardized tests.

But perhaps I’ve been wrong. A new study suggests that LSAT performance isn’t the best indicator of future bar passage. Instead, passing the bar has a more direct correlation with your law school grades…

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In this age of plummeting law school applications, many deans must make difficult choices. They must sacrifice one of two things they love dearly: tuition dollars or their U.S. News ranking. It’s the legal academy’s version of Sophie’s Choice.

As fewer people apply to law school, deans have basically two options: they can shrink the size of the entering class, which reduces tuition revenue, or they can keep the size of the entering class the same, which results in credential dilution — a student body with lower LSAT scores and GPAs. Credential dilution can lead to a tumble in the closely watched U.S. News rankings, which can further reduce applications, setting in motion a vicious cycle.

So far, most schools seem to have opted for shrinkage. Most deans would prefer to be able to claim that they are taking a “stand for quality,” as Dean Patrick Hobbs of Seton Hall recently stated.

(Yes, we recently covered one exception. But to paraphrase Chinatown, “Forget it, Jake — it’s Cooley.”)

Interestingly enough, however, one top law school seems to be going in the other direction. It’s actually increasing the size of its incoming class over last year, even if doing so might lead to credential dilution….

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* The Department of Justice won’t be harshing anyone’s mellow in Washington and Colorado just yet, because Eric Holder has more important things to do than to get involved in people’s pot. [CNN]

* The IRS will now treat all legal gay marriages the same as straight marriages for tax purposes, no matter where the couples live. That’s absolutely fabulous! [Federal Eye / Washington Post]

* Howrey going to deal with all of Allan Diamond’s unfinished business claims made as trustee on behalf of this failed firm? By claiming as a united front that “[c]lients are not property,” even if we secretly think they are. [Am Law Daily]

* In this wonderful post-Windsor world, the parents of a deceased Cozen O’Connor attorney are appealing a judge’s ruling as to the dispensation of their daughter’s death benefits to her wife. [Legal Intelligencer]

* Reduce, re-use, and recycle: environmentally friendly words used to reduce a Biglaw firm’s carbon footprint, not the number of its lawyers. Say hello to the Law Firm Sustainability Network. [Daily Report]

* Disability rights groups are coming forward to defend California’s LSAT anti-flagging law because the amount of extra testing time you receive should be between you and your doctor. [National Law Journal]

* If you thought Charleston School of Law was going to be sold to the InfiLaw System, then think again. The law school is up for grabs on Craigslist. Alas, the “[s]tudent body has been used.” [Red Alert Politics]

If you’re interested in purchasing Charleston School of Law, keep reading to see the ad (click to enlarge)…

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Ed. Note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today’s LSAT advice comes from our friends at Blueprint LSAT Prep. Check out Blueprint’s new LSAT book, The Blueprint for LSAT Logic Games.

Law school numbers are down. Way down.

And like any business that suddenly finds itself with fewer customers, law schools are looking to entice new students to apply. Because — and it’s always important to remember this — law schools are businesses, at least as much as they are academic institutions.

Will they take a hint from used car salesmen, setting up whacky, inflatable, arm-flailing tube men to draw the eye of passing motorists?

Or possibly Red Lobster, offering shrimp AND lobster with any J.D.?

Or, more likely, will they try to improve their job numbers while offering larger scholarships?

If you guessed door number three, you’d be right.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

The law school brain drain is in full effect. Applications from Ivy League graduates are down, and applications are down in general. Last week, my colleague Elie Mystal described the troubling predicament like so: “[T]he students with the best ‘logical reasoning skills’ as measured by the LSAT are avoiding law school at a higher rate than people at shallow end of the LSAT pool.” That being the case, how have top law schools responded to the less than impressive talent pool? By doing the same thing they’ve always done.

Despite the fact that some of the most well-qualified students are fleeing the law school application game like rats from a sinking ship, T14 law schools are still attracting rather competitive applicants. Unlike the law schools that would reportedly consider admitting applicants with sub-145 LSAT scores, top schools would never deign to lower their elite standards — well, at least not by that much.

While it’s still difficult to get into a top law school, it’s not quite as difficult as it used to be before the bottom fell out from the entry-level employment market. What do top law schools’ LSAT scores look like now compared to three years ago? Let’s take a look…

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It’s Alito time, Phil! (via Getty Images)

* The NSA has violated the Constitution for years, you say? And it’s been misleading the FISA court about all of its domestic spying activities? As of this moment, the NSA is on double secret probation! [New York Times]

* Imagine how the New York stop-and-frisk case would have turned out if it had been before SCOTUS. The “human toll of unconstitutional stops” may not have been weighed so heavily. [Opinionator / New York Times]

* “[N]o one has a crystal ball,” but right now, it’s highly likely that the Supreme Court will take up another gay marriage case. Perhaps it’ll be the one that’s currently unfolding in Pennsylvania. [Legal Intelligencer]

* According to a recent survey conducted by Randstad, about 60 percent of lawyers are proud to be members of the legal profession, which is impressive(!) considering how unhappy they are. [The Lawyer]

* Birds of a feather really do flock together. Philip Alito, son of Justice Samuel Alito, will join Eugene Scalia, son of Justice Antonin Scalia, at Gibson Dunn’s Washington, D.C. office. [Blog of Legal Times]

* Even though the vast majority of his race-based claims were dismissed on summary judgment, this “token black associate” still has a respected Biglaw firm up against the Ropes. [National Law Journal]

* Law school applications are plummeting, but top law schools haven’t started scraping the bottom of the barrel — their applicants’ LSAT scores have remained relatively competitive. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* I am Chelsea Manning, I am a female.” Considering (s)he was just sentenced to 35 years in prison, Bradley Chelsea Manning picked a great time to make this announcement to the world. [Chicago Tribune]

* You dare call the Duchess of Dumplins racist and sexist? When it comes to Paula Deen’s new legal team from Morgan Lewis, five are women, and four are black. Take that, Lisa Jackson. [Am Law Daily]

In case you haven’t been following the news, legal education in this country is in a state of crisis. Class sizes are shrinking, law school faculty and staff are getting laid off, and long-term, full-time jobs for graduating students that require bar passage are still sparse.

As of January, law school applications were down 38 percent from where they were three years ago in 2010. The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) stated that the number of total applicants would likely drop below 60,000 for the first time since 1983, when the organization started keeping such records. Many prospective students finally seem to have gotten the message: now is not an ideal time to go to law school.

Now that LSAC has released its preliminary final applicant and applications count, we know just how bad the situation has become. When will the madness end?

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The median LSAT score for students at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School is 145. This means that Cooley is already trawling in the waters of the bottom 25 percent of LSAT takers. So when Cooley Law Dean Don LeDuc says that the school might consider lowering its admissions standards to cover the drop in law school applications, it’s fair to ask what’s lower than the bottom of the barrel.

Are they going to start admitting people who took the LSAT in crayon? Are they going to start admitting people who can’t read? If the median score is 145 and you’re going to bring that number down, what (if any) “standards” does your school still purport to have?

Cooley would rather lower its standards than lower its tuition. In fact, LeDuc says that tuition is going the other way: Cooley announced that it will raise first-year tuition by 9 percent and tuition on everybody else by 8 percent. It’s almost as if Cooley has taken upon itself the responsibility of punishing people too ignorant to research legal education….

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We’ve talked before about the law school brain drain. Essentially, and despite the best efforts of some law professors, the students with the best “logical reasoning skills” as measured by the LSAT are avoiding law school at a higher rate than people at shallow end of the LSAT pool.

There are a couple of possible explanations. Sure, you could say that smarter people aren’t being fooled by the law school value proposition and are making wiser choices. But you could also say that people who test well will naturally have more non-law-school options as the economy recovers.

Still, the fact that law school looks like a bad option to more and more people with lots of options is something that should worry law school administrators — you know, if law school administrators worried about the long-term viability of the current system of legal education.

In Non-Sequiturs on Tuesday, we mentioned a new chart that illustrates this brain drain from a non-LSAT angle. I wasn’t here on Tuesday, so I wanted to highlight it and talk about it a little. Let’s look at whether students from top colleges are applying to law school…

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