Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Application Stagnation: Skimming off the top of the 0L pool

Usually underdog/protest/scam blogs have bad news to report, as that is (regretfully) the nature of our situation. After all, if things were good, there would be no need to write about them very much, and little impetus to read of them either. The sorrow caused by the ScamDeans and the Professors like Prof. Tammy Piety/Privity/Charity—whatever the Sillygoose's name is—normally provides enough material (i.e. injustice) for us to address and leaves little time for other things. Sometimes, however, good news happens. 

For several years now we have seen declining enrollments by 0L's. Law School Tuition Bubble has more graphs and numbers for your perusal, but the short answer is that the number of LSAT takers in the year 2013 have declined down to the number of takers in the year 2001. That is important, and unlike the Skool's contempt of criticism, it cannot be ignored. After twelve years, the legal education complex has now not got a single more LSAT taker. Stagnation, dude! It sux. This is bigger news than one might realize, because in the last twelve years nineteen (19) lovely new law schools have opened—but not a single additional applicant in the pool. It is not just applicants, but actual enrolled stupents (I mean, students) are also in decline, as reflected in the lower LSAT takers. After all, the fewer LSAT takers, the fewer 1L's. What strikes the observer as the most interesting two points to take from this is that:

1) the better qualified students are the ones who are no longer enrolling in law school (schools are forced to reduce 1L seats in order to maintain LSAT & grade point averages), and 

2) the scambloggers are the ones significantly responsible (i.e., deserve credit) for this diminution of number and quality.
These two things are not breaking news and have been discussed already but they deserve a mention here. True, the economy is a factor, but not as much as one might think; normally, when the economy tanks, enrollments go up, because going to school is a refuge from the free market. After all, a lecture from any Professor Dumbledumb is the same regardless of the weather outside or the stock market or corporate earnings reports.

This is good news, but not yet a completely victory, of course. It is extremely difficult to stop a system as large and well-funded as the Legal Education business. More than even money, the social cred that law schools have—had—was immense, they were respected as routes for intelligent people to get good jobs as attorneys, judges, and politicians. The only bad rep was that lawyers were considered untrustworthy, and law school was a sort of 'liar school', but still, it got money and jobs to those who wanted them, so it had street cred enough. Money talks. But that was then, O scamdeans! Now, the veil is off the ugly face of law school. The cred, the source of their main power—public opinion—is being eaten away, year by year, a couple fewer LSAT takers every day. Power is a more delicate thing than many realize; it can be lost much, much more quickly than it can be gained. The bigger they are . . . 

I talk of Law Schools being a system, because that is what they really are. The legal educational system is more than a group of individuals, for if one ScamDean resigned, another ScamAssistantDean would take his place almost immediately. We can't directly stop the Department of Education from giving out student loans without any oversight, or shut the schools down, or even convince most 0L's from attending. Not yet, at least. But what can be done is already being done, and has been done to a good extent: scare away the best. The total dum-dums, or their inverse equivalent, the high-IQ-high-self-esteem idiots, (a.k.a., "special snowflakes") may be unstoppable as far as telling the truth to them goes. They will enroll anyway. But we can hit the marginals, the ones who think twice before signing on the "I will pay back all my loans even though I am not even receiving most of the money directly and I have no question to ask about this arrangement because I do not think about things that matter, making my own effective IQ about zero, despite any good grades or test scores I might have had in the past to prove that I am very very smart in theory" dotted line. 

Notice how heavy cream in the store costs more than regular; and regular costs more than half-and-half; and whole milk costs more than skim. The early scambloggers have skimmed right off the top of the fresh milk, taking much of the valuable cream with them, and leaving the watery curds for the Scam Deans. It remains to be seen whether this skimming will continue as the system tries to lower its standards, at the risk of losing ranking (in the short term at least: and the ScamDeans are indeed vulnerable in the short term since rankings come out every year. Lolz!), or having a declining bar passage rate. Several anti-system people are anticipating the closure of the weaker law schools, although it remains to be seen whether this will hurt the system or not. The closure of a few law schools will ease up on the pressure of the remainder; at the same time, however, it will break much of the still-substantial social cred that the schools have left. People will see the schools close, and that will skim even more cream than even one-hundred blogs being typed-up by a hundred roid-rage-filled scambloggers could. Who wants to bet on a declining proposition? 
Even just a few school closures will break the back of the law school-gives-you-lots-of-money-after-graduate-and-my-friends-told-me-I-am-good-at-arguing-so-that-means-Supreme-Court-for-me mythology. Also, any fraud conviction in the pending law suits is also a big threat to the System; although they will be able to claim it was just one or two fourth tier skoolls that did the scam, and the big boys will wash their hands of it faster than Herod does in a Mel Gibson movie; the mere association of FRAUD—law schools being sued by their own students—will smash the system's social cred further. Being cannabilized by your own alums in the courthouse down the road from your own school: It's bad for business, dude. In all, the law school system and its ScamDeans and Professor Dumbledums will find themselves is as comfortable a social position as Huguenots after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.

So odds are that the "scam blogs" do work, and are working, and will probably continue to work, as we continue to steal the butter out of the Valvoline Dean's fridge. We should almost feel sorry for them: we will take so much cream, even Poor Professor Plurality will have to take her coffee black. And she worked hard for that cup; why, she even paid her dues.
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Read my book-length satire/exposé of law school, Smarter Than Socrates: The End of the Law School Era.

25 comments:

  1. I also think we should flier the cars at major LSAT testing locations in June to get the message to them right after the test itself. The LSAT is the key to hurting the skool industry...which is why lower tier schools have been petitioning the ABA to drop the LSAT requirement.

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  2. We're not good at actually doing things, remember?

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  3. Not to be a dick, but what made ITLSS successful was the comments. There seem to be over 1000 visitors here per day and only a small fraction bother to comment. If we don't comment, we look weak. People can look here and dismiss this as unpopular because it appears that nobody cares so why should they?

    If you read this, then try to comment. Even a "I agree" or something similar helps. Don't let this blog fade away.

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    1. Part of the problem is that much of ITLSS's comment base was driven by a few users who have not seemingly adopted to OTLSS. A few we simply don't want here.

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    2. Those who commented over at "Inside" are now running this site. Hence the low comments I guess. But agreed that the number of readers who need to be more active has got to increase. 5 or 10 comments out of 1000 for high quality writing makes Leiter lean back in his creaking chair, gleeful that he thinks we're failing.

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    3. FYI: we are adjusting the posting schedule to allow more opportunity for discussions of individual posts. Bear with us. We do not have the free time and convenience provided by a law professorship. Ha!

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    4. I'm somebody who wrote several dozen comments at ITLSS, but have yet to write one here (until now). For me, the reason is that I suspect law professors and deans aren't reading this blog, whereas we know they read Lawprof's blog and comments. Not that there is anything to be done about that, that's just part of what made it special to have a law professor writing a scamblog. You guys seem to be doing pretty well for yourselves as it is, you have more comments than most of the scamblogs I've seen. Nando might have more, the rest don't have any at all.

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  4. Your post reminds me of something Kent Syverud said once (I think LawProf did a post on it) about the drop in applications causing the "froth" in the applicant pool to go away, i.e., the drop in applications meant that people who were unsure/not as qualified to be lawyers were leaving first.

    I think it's clearly the opposite. The people most fit to be lawyers are skeptically looking at this mess and saying "no thank you." The people most desperate for something else and/or status as a lawyer are hanging on.

    This can't end well.

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    1. This is my case exactly. I have been preparing, studying, testing, and going through the application process for a couple of years now. I have been accepted to about half of the t14 and have been offered some significant scholarship money, but have recently decided against attending.

      Why? Simple. The opportunity cost of three more years in school (plus debt) just isn't worth it. I am smart, capable, and have experience working in a number of job fields. The outlook for law school grads is poor and I can do much better not attending.

      I want to thank everyone who has been involved in the scamblog movement and Law School Transparency for providing the information that I needed to take this step.

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  5. http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/04/the-wrong-people-have-stopped-applying-to-law-school/255685/

    On April 10, 2012, the Atlantic published Jordan Weissmann's ass-kicking piece entitled "The Wrong People Have Stopped Applying to Law School." Look at this brutal opening:

    "Among the many unfortunate developments in higher education over the past decade, one of the most talked about has been the law school bubble. In the heat of the recession, a record number of students decided that it would be a good idea to dive six-figures into debt for a shot at a legal career. Many were lured with utterly misleading job placement stats, as well as a stubborn misperception that law was still a safe career choice, that a J.D. even guaranteed a living wage. Once they graduated, many realized otherwise.

    Last month, the Law School Admissions Council (a.k.a., LSAC) published data indicating that the bubble finally seemed to have popped -- a merciful development, as I put it at the time. The number of LSAT tests administered has plummeted over the past two years, and fewer students are accepting admission. This is a happy turn of events. The fewer grads being funneled into an super-saturated industry, the better. (Full disclosure: I used to work for a law firm.)

    Yesterday, LSAC released a new bit of evidence* that law school has finally lost its luster. Applicants are down more than 15 percent for the year. But there's one problem: The wrong students have stopped applying.

    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 be going to law school has dropped the most."

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    1. This is why we must move beyond the internet to provide easy to understand information to LSAT test takers, especially the less informed. Law School Transparency has shown us that we can pick up the slack from the failures of the ABA and make a difference...unless they drop the LSAT from the accreditation requirements, as some T234 deans have requested.

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    2. Do you think the schools care if its the "wrong" students that are applying? not in the short term. Change will come when there are almost "no" students applying, and that wont happen too soon.

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  6. Shout Out to Tulsa TamsMarch 26, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    Pretty soon, instead of only the shit students applying to law school, it will be only the anal mucous students applying (since anal mucous is watery and less substantial than normal shit).

    That is, the students that are even less-qualified than the shit students will be the norm. What do you think about that Tamara Piety? (can't have a comment full of references to shit with out a shout out to Tulsa Tams). Soon you'll be lecturing in a lecture hall oozing with nothing but anal mucous. Actually, faculty won't care as long as the slimy checks keep on coming in. Good times.

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  7. The cycle currently predicting 56.4K applicants. Unless admissions and yield jump tremendously, looking at an accepted class size of ~ 35K compared to 48K last year. That should put a hurt on the TTT/TTTT.

    http://www.lsac.org/lsacresources/data/three-year-volume.asp

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    1. My TTT/TTTT institution is getting slammed. Current 2L class started at 205.

      Current 1L class started at 165ish.

      They are projecting the next 1L class to be 130ish.

      We're nowhere near the bottom, and remember that TTT/TTTT's get slammed by dozens of students transferring "up."

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    2. Right - why would you attend a TTTT when you can attend a TTT, a TTT when you can attend a TT, and all they way up the food chain. However, you also have to balance the top guys protecting their stats by decreasing class sizes on the front end. Then you have to factor the TTTTs offering loads of cash to fill their seats. It's like watching game theory in practice taking place in real time.

      Anyways, will be interesting the watch the next couple of years unfold. I wonder when LSAC will update their datapoints for acceptances and matriculants for Fall '12 class so we can get an idea of how bad the last cycle really was. We may start to see TTT/TTTTs accepting 100% of applicants.

      http://www.lsac.org/lsacresources/data/lsac-volume-summary.asp

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  8. I think what is being overlooked is that there is still a vast number of people capable of being scammed,and the industry knows it. The number of test takers may be down, and schools may fight for a smaller piece of the shrinking pie, but there is still enough pie to go around, they will just have a new spin on it. It is likely many will have to drop their medians so prepare for a barrage of "the rankings don't matter" propaganda in major outlets, and a rethinking of the entire program of ABA prescribed cirriculum.

    As long as the federal spigot is on then the scam will not die, and only the dumbest of the schools/administrators will be affected. There will never be a shortage of dreaming children snd their parents to prey on, at least not for a while; everybody here has been one or the other.

    Progress has been made, but there is a way to go before we see any significant impact.

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    1. Agree somewhat. I think the pie is eventually going to get too small for all 200+ law schools to have their share and stay afloat. That could happen as soon as the Fall '13 cycle depending on how many applicants matriculate.

      But agree there are still scam-able people out there. If you go read some applicant stories on LawSchoolNumbers.com you have to wonder what they are thinking when they are applying to law school w/GPAs under 3 and LSATs under 150. The majority of these applicants simply have no business being near a law school, yet they are encouraged to attend by people who don't yet understand the scam.

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  9. It makes sense that the top students are the ones who will think twice about attending while the "bottom" students will be the ones who WON'T think twice.

    If you are a HYS calibre student, for instance, you probably have other paths you can take to success. Therefore there is a HUGE oppty cost to go to law school, even T10, and even if you get a "scholarship".

    OTOH if you are some retail "associate" with a lib arts degree, what have you got to lose if you go to a TTT/TTTT and it doesn't work out. Sure you'll very likely fail and return to being a retail associate but you're no worse off and you'll just not pay the student loan. The scam will continue b/c people with nothing to lose will attend because...they have nothing to lose.

    Also think about all the people that strive to become BIGactors or singers even though only like 0.0001% of people make it. That is b/c when you make it there is money and prestige and there will still be BIGlawyers who make it.

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    1. The Harvard student should do anything with their life other than go to law school. They should try their hand at programming mobile phone apps for a living, some 17 year old just made himself and 4 others $30 million dollars.

      The retail associates should work on trying to become retail managers. They will never be law associates whether they go to law school or not.

      If you don't make it in BIGacting there is always shitacting. If you live in New York, DC, SF, Boston, and maybe a few other places it can pay bills, also bills are easier to pay when you are not in hock for $120,000.

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  10. @2:03PM

    STFU Tony and get your meds. Or go fishing. Prep school brat.

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  11. what law schools can't stomach and refuse to accept is that times have changed. If I told law school admin that prospective candidates could create something and sell it for millions without ever having stepped a foot into school, would they recommend it to prospective candidates? Of course not, because everyone needs a versatile JD in order to create value. Well, a 17 year old just sold his company to Yahoo for millions.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/summly-and-its-teen-founder-snapped-up-by-yahoo/2013/03/26/88c5916a-960e-11e2-9e23-09dce87f75a1_story.html?hpid=z3

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  12. Joseph Cotchett is a real go getter.

    Should I write him a letter?

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  13. How will this impact The Seton Hall Law Toilet? Will the Valvoline have to lease a "pre-owned" Mercedes AMG next year?

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  14. I really like to read about other people trying new things, to get an idea of what it’s like.
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    ReplyDelete