Thursday, May 12, 2016

LSAC Analysis for 2015-2016, OTLSS-style

Well, we have just reached LSAC's 92% applicant point for this application cycle, so I thought it was time to take a look at where trends have gone thus far.

Earlier this cycle, it appeared that applications were were clocking in about 5 times the amount of applicants, which was a significant departure from prior years.  Over time however, that curve began to straighten and fall in at 6.5 applications per applicant.  So far, so normal, although one can see that the trend was off to a slow start before "catching up" for 2016.

As LSAC only presents the most recent three years of data along with a highly-compressed axis,  it is easy to forget overall trends and think things are largely unchanged for the last several years.  Included below are applicant-over-time trends for 2012, 2014, and this current cycle.  Readers of this blog may recall that my earlier data is based on interpolation of large blow-up charts while later data is taken from LSACs posts, which is why the curves for 2012 an 2014 are super-smooth while 2016 looks all googly-moogly by comparison.  Interestingly, 4th-order polynomials seem to model these curves exceptionally well, although I attach no physical significance to the model other than "it works."  But even these three curves demonstrate a significant downward trend in applicants, and 2016 is struggling to rise from all-time lows.

Many have mentioned that applicants seem to have delayed applying until later and later into the application cycle, but I don't know that I have seen any particular analysis on that point.  Blowing the dust off the old college calculus textbook, however, we see that the derivatives of these curves reveal a lengthening of the application cycle:

In 2012 and 2014, the application rate maxed-out at about two months into the cycle.  Where 2012 topped out at about 3,400 applicants/week, 2014 barely crested 2,500 applicants/week at the same time in the cycle.  In 2016 however, not only was the maximum rate still lower, it occurred some six weeks later by comparison.

All of this suggests that while LSAC is proud of their 1% increase in applications over last year, digging deeper demonstrates that potential students are still hearing the message and thinking twice about taking the plunge.  The overall enthusiasm for law school is anemic at best, and hopefully will continue to be so as we continue to do our part in showing the scam for what it is.  Congratulations, everyone, and let's keep the pressure on.       



  1. So, if I'm interpreting the data correctly, the number of applicants (and applications) for the 2016 cycle will be incrementally LESS than they were in 2015 and previously years.

    Significantly, there is a rather abrupt DROP in applications towards the end of the 2016 application cycle.


    1. What appears to be happening here is that while the 2016 numbers are adding up to the "same" overall total as, say, 2014 (i.e. around 55k applicants for the cycle), it is happening more slowly and taking longer to achieve the same end result.

      To me, the "velocity" of applicants/week is a proxy for enthusiasm. A lower number means that there are fewer gunners and more people that are only half-heartedly applying, and maybe thinking law school is cool as other options have not presented themselves.

      To make up for this, the Law Schools are keeping the doors open longer, and keep trolling the waters over and over again to get to the same total applicant count. Overall, applicant totals have dropped significantly from prior years - some say there will be an upswing, some say this is the new normal.

    2. And law skules have had to resort to increasingly desperate antics—raffles, free tuition, substitution of the GRE for the LSAT—just to achieve the "same" result.

  2. Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance KingMay 12, 2016 at 4:14 PM

    As I have posted previously, Law School is not a scam when it is fully disclosed to prospective students that it is no longer a reliable means to a middle class income. Yes, a lucky few will end up with public defender, government, prosecutor and medium to Big Law jobs. However, the vast majority of us will end up like the attorney in Better Call Saul (Jimmy McGill); a solo out on their own driving an old LeSabre. Twenty six years out of law school, I did not foresee myself in that position. A broke, aging, balding, paunchy solo in a cage fight with broke, underemployed recent, young graduates for two bill DUI's. There are 100 too many law schools and we are truly a dime a dozen. Law School is a great education. It teaches the nuts and bolts of who our systems and governments really works and the theories behind it. However, monetizing it for reliable income is not sustainable when you have too many lawyers. Its like Mitsubishi's and Chrysler 200s----too many and not enough market.

    1. @Captain -- That's an excellent way of putting it.

      "Law School is a great education .... However, monetizing it for reliable income is not sustainable." This comment isn't whiny or disparaging, but it perfectly summarizes the problem.

      In my case, I lost my job over a year ago when the small firm I worked for shut down. I spent 12+ years prosecuting patents, and now nobody cares to hire me because I wasn't an electrical engineer AND I don't have biglaw experience (both seem to be necessary now to stay employed in patent law). I find myself in this situation after years of enduring salary cuts, late paychecks and other such headaches.

      Today, my primary source of income is doing secretarial work, but I'm working on becoming a science teacher. So, if all goes well, at least I see some hope at the end of the tunnel, despite the fact that I'll be starting at an age when most people retire from teaching.

      The worst part of practicing law is that it took the best years of my life away from me. The way I see my life now, it's more of a "salvage operation" than anything else.

    2. "The worst part of practicing law is that it took the best years of my life away from me."

      This statement should be sent to every current and prospective law school student.

      And perhaps the Captain's statement should be sent, too, although I fear it would be misinterpreted as an endorsement for law school: "Law School is a great education .... However, monetizing it for reliable income is not sustainable."

    3. "Today, my primary source of income is doing secretarial work, but I'm working on becoming a science teacher."

      Think about it, kids: Do you ever hear something similar from an MD, RN, PE, FSA or CPA, e.g.: "Today, my primary source of income is fast food service, but I'm working on becoming a history teacher."

      Kids, let me spell out for you. N O. No. You do not.

      Kids, let me make it clear: Stay away from law school!

    4. Well said, Captain, and I think that has always been part of the message - the education is worth something, but not at the premium that has been placed on it for the last two decades. If they charged 60s prices adjusted for inflation, it would probably be more reasonable. But then that means no summer "sabbaticals", no historic brownstones for the administrators and faculty, no private school for their children, so...

      Anon, that "I wasn't an electrical engineer AND I don't have biglaw experience" comment hits close to home for me also. As an ex-non-electrical-engineer, I get so sick and tired of law school waving around patent law as a magical fix for the problems in the market. You're not alone in that per the other comments we receive.

    5. 11:19 here!

      @dupednontraditional -- Saying you want to become a patent lawyer is a lot like saying you want to become a U.S. Senator. It is an "elite" club with few seats, plus whatever seats do exist are becoming fewer and fewer.

      Also, at small firms, the practice of patent law is often "toilet law." It is full of scams. Patent lawyers outright lie to people in order to get them to file a patent (i.e., "you will become a millionaire if you just get that patent on your inflatable toothbrush"). You can just look through the thousands of patent applications that were not allowed (all public record and easily accessible online w/o any fee required) to see what type of garbage these scam-artist lawyers shoved through the Office.

      @6:33 -- "Do you ever hear something similar from an MD, RN, PE, FSA or CPA"?

      It's not unheard of, but these are generally professions (except maybe for accounting) that can allow someone to make a living for their whole working life.

    6. @8:43-Accounting is a fine lifelong career. I come from a family of CPAs and nobody is idle in their 50's,60's,or 70's due to lack of work. Although practicing at the CPA level may be a step or two above what you are referring to as accounting.

  3. A good read on the issue (from NYT DealBook):

    1. "David Barnhizer, a professor emeritus at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, wrote in a March research paper [that] 'Virtually all law schools across the U.S. pumped too many lawyers into a system that was already filled to the brim and now is overflowing,' Mr. Barnhizer said in an interview."

      " 'People are turned off on legal education because of a lack of suitable paying jobs,' Mr. [Walter] Mondale [Minnesota Alumnus and major donor] said. 'I don’t think you can underestimate the havoc that these law school debts can cause.' "

      Oh, NOW everyone is saying the market is saturated and jobs are piss-poor. Hmmmmmmm....where are the pro-scam defenders, again...?

    2. "Oh, NOW everyone is saying the market is saturated and...."

      I don't know Mondale, but IIRC Barnhizer's been saying LS costs too much for too little in return for a long time.

  4. The class that started LS in 2013 is graduating in June, to be replaced with an even smaller class starting in September, who will probably be paying lower effective tuition.

    Could this result in a YOY revenue decline for the average law school of another 5%? Even worse?

    This year is the first year that admitted students will have the drastically lower bar pass rates for 4th tier schools available to see before they make a final decision to enroll. Hopefully that will be at least another minor negative factor.

    1. Bear in mind that the sorts of people that consider attending a Cooley do not—indeed, cannot—scrutinize data.

    2. Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance KingMay 15, 2016 at 5:02 PM

      They aren't dummies. They are former retail monkeys--assistant managers from DEAD MALLS. Or they are Wendy's Assistant Regional Managers or they sit all day in a cube taking orders for diabetes supplies. Who are they? Their names are Amber and Liam with college degrees from Central Baptist Torah Tech in Psychology earning a 2.45-2.6. Boomer mom told them they "argue good" and they are tired of working 70 irregular hours for 40K. They know that even if they are a Solo earning 37K a year, it is still better and there is the tremendous cultural attraction of being a LAWYER. A LAWYER. They know that their loans are kind of "bullshit" cause that's what the Prawfs told them on the sly....

  5. Here's a good laugh: