Wednesday, March 28, 2018

LSAT Scores Don't Predict Bar Passage Rates... fact, they appear to over-predict them!
What do you mean, I hear people say?  Well, the ABA just published first-time bar passage rates across all law schools in one handy document (for the first time, it appears).  For those of us that like to use data to make our arguments (e.g. scamblogs) instead of feel-good platitudes to make our arguments (*cough* *cough* Law School Cartel), it's certainly useful.
Recently highlighted were the 2017 first-time bar passage rates for the following schools:  University of DC, Florida Coastal, Whittier, TJSL, and Arizona Summit.  One can also go to the ABA to find the median LSAT scores for 2014 for these same schools - the class that approximately represents the 2017 bar passage data.  Also, we recently complied 600 data points correlating median LSAT scores with first-time bar passage rates from the 2010-2012 timeframe.
Comparing the results:

1st-time bar pass
Median LSAT
University of DC
Florida Coastal
AZ Summit
Overall, these schools did worse BY HALF than one would expect from the prediction.  Some items that could affect this outcome:  (1) by including "all" the bar-passage data to make a prediction, the prediction may skew high overall, (2)  the data used to make the prediction is approximately eight years old as of this date, so the prediction requires updating, (3) the prediction is too broad across all ABA-accredited law schools, and should be analyzed by groupings/rank/tier/something, (4) gremlins. 
In any event, the actual results are not positive, at least where the students are concerned.  Whether the Cartel likes it or not, some sort of gate-keeping mechanism is necessary for the protection of both the profession and the individual.  Unless one merely views students as a resource to be consumed, of course.


  1. Toss out UDC-a publicly funded vanity project which was never needed in lawyer rich DC, but was created to cater to "non traditional" students interested in "public service"-and focus on the other four. One-Whittier-has announced its closure. But how is it that the other three are still open and operating? What's the point of going to law school if you can't pass the bar exam? And with these generally abysmal passage rates, the more important question is: why is the ABA allowing these schools to remain open? Lots of potential answers to that one, but the correct answer is: Because the ABA is part of the scam.

  2. Looking at the chart in the earlier post, it is obvious that the LSAT over predicts the bar passage rate when the LSAT score dips below about 147. Almost all of the data points are below the fit line at low LSAT scores. A plot of the residuals (Predicted Rate - Observed Rate) vs LSAT score would highlight this.

    1. Exactly. Perhaps a curve would fit the data in the chart better, but your point concerning the residuals would still likely remain to a large degree.

    2. Dupednontraditional,

      I think #3 is the confounder possibly skewing your results. Does your model assume all schools provide the same education? If so, then that may be the problem. The LSAT just measures a student’s ability to learn the law. While the bar measures what a student has learned in school. So bar passage rates are also influenced by the quality of education. The bottom tier law schools tend to perpetrate the worst behavior when it comes to scamming students. We can probably assume that the bottom tier schools care about their students the least and provide a worse education than higher ranked schools. That may explain why these students perform much worse than predicted on the bar. I don’t know how you can account for the quality of education. We can’t run an experiment by placing students with 140 LSATs in Harvard and 170 LSATs in Arizona Summit to see how they perform on the bar. Like you said, you may need analyze the schools by tier or some other factor.

      Another factor may be the quality of the student body. Students ask each other questions for help. If everyone is lost though, and the school provides a lousy education, then you have a perfect storm of failure.

    3. Anon JD/MD, I think you're right on both counts. This and the prior related post is just a bare-bones analysis that asks does the data support a correlation (yes, sort of), and does it have any predictive value (yes, sort of).

      There has been a lot of hand-wringing about whether or not LSATs can predict bar passage to a reasonable degree. Folks like David Frakt would say "of course," while many, many self-interested others would say "preposterous!" A better analysis is certainly needed, but it is eye-opening what can be seen in just a few minutes with data from the ABA and an Excel spreadsheet, let alone what a Statistics Professor could come up with.

    4. A qualitative change does indeed occur as one passes from Cardozo-style lousiness to Cooley-style lousiness. At least the Cardozos are ordinary law schools, decidedly toilety but structurally similar to Harvard in curriculum and mode of instruction. The über-toilets often substitute multiple-choice tests for written exams and devote much of the curriculum to bar review.

      Quality of the student body? Someone from Savannah was recently quoted in the press as calling the toilet's students and faculty "stellar". No, Savannah does not have stellar students, not even one. As for faculty, I have my doubts.

  3. Strict assessment of the value of the LSAT requires data, I admit. Informally, however, consider this:

    It is generally agreed that the legal profession requires intelligence and analytical ability. Not for nothing do we say (or did we say in Old Guy's salad days) "as smart as a Philadelphia lawyer". (The reference, incidentally, is to Alexander Hamilton, not to a recent graduate of Drexel.) The LSAT tests intelligence and analytical reasoning. Is it not fair at least to suspect that people who score in the bottom 10% or 20% or 30% on the LSAT might not be the best candidates for the legal profession?

    Yes, my premises have both been challenged. Scam-dean Frank Wu infamously published an idiotic article entitled "Why Law School Is for Everyone". Other law-school scamsters urge the lowering of standards, and even the abolition of examinations, for admission to the bar. Every dolt, it seems, is up to the challenge of practicing law.

    Likewise, many people allege that LSAT scores, and for that matter grades in law school, are "arbitrary". Yet somehow LSAT scores seem to be very highly correlated with the number of questions answered correctly, which in turn is correlated with logical reasoning, reading ability, and other skills that the LSAT seeks to measure.

  4. Maybe the top scorers who attend these schools are smart enough to transfer out after the first year...

  5. The real question is what is someone with terrible LSAT scores doing in a trash heap? Even at a T6 law school, the median salary of women and minorities with more than 25 years of legal experience is going to be $50,000 or $60,000 a year because of up or out, class year hiring and few corporate or government jobs available.

    You become a cop or teacher in NY City and you are guaranteed a healthy 6 figure salary plus two thirds of that in benefits.

    Applicants don't get it because the long term data is not out there front and center. Scam movement has more work to do.

    1. How much are we supposed to do? Often I think that we should stop. After all, we've discussed many times over just about everything that needs to be discussed. This site and others prove the scam. What else do we have to do to get people's attention? Grab them by the shoulders and shake them? Advertise the facts in neon lights?

      Years ago I announced here that I would no longer shed a tear for anyone who enrolled thenceforth in a toilet law school—and all but thirteen (at a generous estimate) are toilets. People who fancy themselves worthy of the legal profession should grow the hell up and take some responsibility for their decisions. The facts are readily available to anyone who cares to examine them. Many people, however, will not let facts stand in the way of their fateful enrollment in a toilet school. When confronted with the facts, they ignore them. Well, let them suffer their fate. They are just plain stupid.

      I am unlikely to support a lawsuit by a student claiming to have been misled or duped. Again, grow the hell up.

  6. OG is right; the information is out there, and it takes literally seconds to find it if you bother to look. But there are still thousands ready, willing, and able to be duped-if that's the right word. Nobody and nothing will prevent them from being a lawyer, and if you try to persuade them otherwise, you're just "bitter" and they'll show you.
    The people at the forefront of the scam movement have done God's work, but it's become increasingly clear that many, if not all, of the TTT applicants just don't care to know the facts, or just don't care. I'm convinced that most enrollees are fully aware that their chances of finding a good long-term job upon graduation are iffy at best-but when the option is unemployment or working at The GAP or selling insurance or waiting tables-well, going to law school gives me three years to delay the inevitable. And the loans? Well, who cares-I've got a ton of loans from undergrad I'm not going to pay, so what's 250K more?
    Actually, most of them ought to go into acting; I've never seen more people shocked, just shocked, that they and almost all of their classmates flunked the bar and/or couldn't find jobs.
    It's been a good decade since the scam was fully revealed, the information is there-and not just about immediate job prospects, but about bi-modal salaries, poor job prospects for lawyers over 50 etc etc.
    OG is right; he and his colleagues have done the work already. Now it's time for people to grow up and make decisions-such as attending LS-after a full analysis.

    1. Yes, I wonder whether the lemmings who sign up for these toilets can properly be said to have been "duped".

      Just last week one of our dear readers posted a link to a discussion in which some dolt justified over and over again the desire to attend Savannah Law School (scant weeks before it went tits up): "I'm confident that I can be at the top of my class" and similar tripe.

      There's no talking such people out of their stupid decision. That's another reason for setting sensible standards: depriving people in the 140s and below of the chance to do something stupid.

  7. Actually, if the data that BLS disclosed were accurate many fewer people would attend law school. There is still no data on the incomes of lawyers that includes the non-establishment lawyers excluded by BLS- that is where the $50,000 to $60,000 median income comes in.

    The numbers of lawyers who are temping, working part time and working only part of the year needs to be disclosed.

    There needs to longitudinal data on the outcomes for individual law schools 10, 20 and 30 years after graduation.

    Finally the tiny unemployment rate for lawyers published by BLS does not reflect the severe bleeding the legal profession, including the actual numbers of unemployed and severely underemployed licensed lawyers, which comes out to maybe 40% and not 3% of licensed lawyers.

    You have a profession where there is extreme suffering due to a lack of work for most lawyers and the BLS has the numbers presented incorrectly as all roses. The disclosures by BLS for lawyers need to be adapted to the fact that law is a licensed profession with a very expensive degree, and data needs to be presented by comparison to licensed lawyers.

    If the data were presented as the profession actually is, incomes of $60,000 a year at the median, maybe half of lawyers unemployed or severely underemployed, and the inability of the profession to support anything close to paying off law school debt for most people, let alone make a living that warrants getting a law degree, many fewer people would attend law school.

    1. That "median" doesn't take into account the hordes of unemployed lawyers.

  8. 4:42-while having all that additional information available would of course be helpful, the reality is that no one is going to fund that research.
    And would it really help? Take another look at the original post. At UDC-which states that it "offers an excellent and affordable legal education and seeks to make law school a reality for all students"-60% of the class flunked the bar. The other four schools had even more pathetic bar pass rates-and how does Arizona Summit, and extremely expensive private law school-stay accredited with a flunk rate of almost 75%?
    These bar passage rates are easy to find, but people are still applying to, and attending, all of these schools(except Whittier), and paying a lot for the privilege. If terrible bar passage rates won't dissuade people from attending-if you can't pass the bar you can't fulfill your "dream" of being a lawyer-then nothing will. It has become increasingly clear that there are thousands of soon-to-be TTT attendees who are hellbent on attending law school, no matter the cost. The facts are there: the most likely outcome for a TTT attendee is flunking the bar and a lifelong admission to debt hell. But the applications still keep rolling in.

    1. More than 47% of La Verne's graduates in 2016 were unemployed ten months after graduation. Yet people still sign up.

  9. BLS needs to fund most of the information above at 4:42PM. Problem is that the government is funding huge educational loan dollars and the BLS data overstates the income by 2X for many occupations. Is easy to get self-employed incomes for lawyers if data collection is carefully deigned. The actual numbers of workers holding jobs and not full-time equivalents needs to be reflected as do the number of temp jobs.

    The failure to reflect the supply side- the number of license holders, number of degree holders and number of people who say they are working in an occupation is another shortcoming of BLS data. Unemployment needs to be reflected as a percentage of the supply side, which would include some people who are voluntarily not working but mostly those who cannot get full-time full year jobs in the area in law.

    With millions of Americans taking out loans they can in no way afford to get degrees that are uneconomical, based on wildly misleading BLS data, Americans need accurate and full disclosures of employment statistics for the degree they are getting.

  10. Because law is running on an up or out, class year hiring and experience limit hiring system, and most of the high paying jobs that entry level lawyers get last for only a few years, it is critical to get employment and income data by law schools 10, 20 and 30 years out. The experience limit hiring system applies to most in house jobs today, making it harder for older law school classes to work as time goes on.

    It is not like every law school needs to get experienced data every year. However, law schools should be required to get periodic data on experienced classes. For example do a ten year survey once every five years, a 20 year survey once every five years and a 30 year survey once every five years.

    The law degree is of questionable economic value if even the median top law degrees revert after a few years to incomes that are the same or less than experienced teachers or uniformed public service earn in the geographic area of the law school, taking into account that the municipality spends much more on employee benefits as a percentage of salary than any private sector lawyer gets. It is likely that the earnings of the non top law degree holders at the median are going to be lower than for the public servants at every point in their career.

    Hordes of people are not going to rush into a profession where the median income is about $60,000 and the degree costs $120,000. The attraction is the misleading high income figures published by BLS.

    Another factor is the proposals in Congress to end PSLF and extend the period in which other student borrowers are on the hook to 30 years. Those proposals make law school much less attractive to anyone who has to borrow from the government at high interest rates to attend. They keep borrowers on the hook for an unaffordable tax liability equal to the debt forgiven after 30 years, meaning people may need to liquidate their savings to pay the tax or enter into a high interest and penalty payment arrangement with the IRS.

    Even if borrowing is limited to $28,000 a year, the cost of law school attendance, including living expenses and accrued interest is going to be well over six figures at graduation. The income at the median is going to be about half of the debt with accurate disclosures by BLS- not such an attractive prospect.

  11. 4:52-what you suggest makes perfect sense. However, an analysis like that will never be funded, especially in this political climate.
    But let's ignore that; as it stands now, BLS stats show 2x as many JD grads per year as there are JD required jobs, and if you dig a bit deeper, there are also stats showing that the legal services market as a whole has actually shrunk over the past 15-20(in other words, the pie for all attorneys has gotten a whole lot smaller than it was circa 1998). And in the period since the Great Recession, the economy as a whole has grown significantly(except for legal services, that is).
    But still the applications flow into La Verne, TJ, AZ Summit, FL Coastal, Appalachian,(fill in the name here; there are a hundred or so to pick from). Terrible bar passage rates, terrible employment rates(e.g. of a class of 42, only 15 Appalachian grads had JD required jobs).
    Again, this information is easy to find if anyone bothers to look-but it's clear they don't.
    So no need to waste taxpayer dollars compiling the additional statistics, as they won't make any difference to these applicants. These folks can't be bargained with, can't be reasoned with-they are the Terminator applicants-they just won't stop until they attend law school, period.

  12. Well. . .it is easy to say that smart people don't apply to law school any more, and that smart people stopped applying years ago, and there is some truth to that. But. . .think about the average 20-year old college junior with good grades, who wants to be a lawyer. He sees Law and Order, Legally Blonde (apparently there was a sequel) reads some John Grisham novel and is bombarded with info that law is a high-paying exciting sexy profession. Then the government says here's $150,000 in student loans. Then the law schools lie, and tell the mark, the dupe, that 90 percent of their graduates are employed within six months of graduation earning over 100,000 per year. Can you blame the 20 year old college junior for filling out the Law School applications?

    1. It's been several years since law schools dishonestly reported that 90% of graduates were earning more than $100k a year. Several of them now report unemployment of 30%, 40%, almost 50%, yet lemmings still rush in.

  13. Sorry Dilbert, but if people are making decisions based on Legally Blonde/L&A/Grisham novels, then they clearly too lazy to do any actual research. Simply typing "law school scam" into google results not just in scamblogs, but in articles/editorials from publications such the NYT and the Atlantic.
    Anectodatally, I've got five nephews/nieces who are graduating in the next year or two from college. None are even applying to LS, b/c they've "heard" ls costs a ton and job prospects are poor. Applying to LS is an adult decision; no matter where the student goes to school it's very likely to cost a ton-so expecting people to do some actual research before taking on $250K in loans isn't unreasonable.