Wednesday, January 14, 2015

How low can they go?: Charting the decline in LSAT scores for incoming law students, 2011-2014.

How low can they go? Surely, this is one of those many "all very complicated" questions that beset legal education and that defy easy heuristics, black box thinking, and the distorting effects of oversimplification, at least according to the obfuscating bullshit propounded by InfiLaw frontman Jay Conison.

Well, actually, no. By low, I refer to the ongoing law school spelunk to the cavernous depths of their application pools. And, properly posed, answers to this question can be expressed with numerical precision. How many law schools have lowered the median LSAT of their entering class, and by how much, between 2011 and 2014? Which schools specifically have lowered the median LSAT of their entering class by three points or more between 2011 and 2014? Which schools have lowered the 25th percentile LSAT scores of their incoming classes, and by how much, between 2011 and 2014? Which schools specifically have lowered their 25th percentile score by three points or more between 2011 and 2014? Which schools had the lowest 25th percentile LSAT scores in 2011 and 2014, and what were they?

But mind Jay Conison’s wise words of caution. "We can never fully understand and assess a school if we restrict our attention just to a few imperfect measures of what goes in and what goes out." Or, as Donald Rumsfeld famously explained when objective evidence supporting the justifications he gave for invading Iraq failed to materialize, "There are also unknown unknowns, the [things] we don’t know we don’t know."

What is as yet unknown, if not exactly unknown unknown, is how much damage the law school scam will inflict on law students and society as it stoops to recruit kids with mediocre to godawful academic records and standardized test scores, the cannon fodder in the law school blitzkrieg against the sustainability of our profession and their own integrity. Kids who are much more likely to pay full or near-full tuition, to fail the bar exam, to be unable to obtain or hold law jobs, to lack a skill set that might yield a decent job in some non-law field or an ever-elusive JD-Advantage gig, or to provide effective representation to their clients if they do, somehow, carve out a place for themselves in the legal profession.

Today’s post tracks the decline in median scores from 2011 to 2014. Friday’s post will track the (even steeper) decline at the 25th percentile break. I got the 2011 LSAT scores from the Law School Transparency site (LST). The 2014 scores have not been posted at LST yet, so I obtained them directly from the 509 forms located at:

Change in median LSAT score of incoming class between 2011 and 2014:

Median LSAT score up by 3 pts.
Median LSAT up by 2 pts.
Median LSAT up by 1 pt.
Median LSAT unchanged.
Median LSAT down by 1 pt.
Median LSAT down by 2 pts.
Median LSAT down by 3 pts.
Median LSAT down by 4 pts.
Median LSAT down by 5 pts.
Median LSAT down by 6 pts.
Median LSAT down by 7 pts.
Median LSAT down by 8 pts.

Median LSAT down by 8 pts.

Suffolk (154 to 146)

Median LSAT down by 7 pts.

Brooklyn (163 to 156)
Hofstra (159 to 152)
McGeorge (158 to 151)
Western New England (153 to 146)
Ave Maria (150 to 143)

Median LSAT down by 6 pts.

American (162 to 156)
LaVerne (153 to 147)
Southern Illinois (153 to 147)
Whittier (152 to 146)
Thomas Jefferson (151 to 145)
Charlotte (148 to 142)

Median LSAT down by 5 pts.

Indiana U.-Bloomington (166 to 161)
Univ. of Cincinnati (160 to 155)
Drexel (159 to 154)
DePaul (158 to 153)
Marquette (157 to 152)
Univ. of D.C. (153 to 148)
Elon (153 to 148)
Touro (151 to 146)

Median LSAT down by 4 pts.

Boston U. (167 to 163)
Ohio St. (163 to 159)
Univ. of Florida (162 to 158)
Univ. of California- Hastings (162 to 158)
Univ. of Kentucky (159 to 155)
Rutgers- Camden (159 to 155)
Univ. of San Francisco (157 to 153)
Univ. of New Mexico (157 to 153)
Univ. of Baltimore (156 to 152)
Indiana U- Indianapolis (156 to 152)
Drake (156 to 152)
Campbell (156 to 152)
Williamette (155 to 151)
Washburn (155 to 151)
Samford (155 to 151)
Univ. of Arkansas- Little Rock (154 to 150)
St. Mary’s (154 to 150)
Ohio Northern (154 to 150)
Northern Kentucky (154 to 150)
John Marshall (Chicago) (153 to 149)
Charleston (152 to 148)
Valparaiso (149 to 145)
Faulkner (149 to 145)
North Carolina Central (148 to 144)
Arizona Summit (148 to 144)
Florida Coastal (147 to 143)

Median LSAT down by 3 pts.

Georgetown (170 to 167)
Univ. of Minnesota (167 to 164)
Notre Dame (166 to 163)
Boston College (165 to 162)
Washington & Lee (164 to 161)
Univ. of Colorado (164 to 161)
George Mason (164 to 161)
Pepperdine (163 to 160)
Univ. of Maryland (162 to 159)
Florida St. (162 to 159)
Cardozo (162 to 159)
Baylor (162 to 159)
Univ. of Utah (161 to 158)
Lewis & Clark (161 to 158)
Villanova (160 to 157)
St. John’s (160 to 157)
Santa Clara (160 to 157)
Loyola (Chicago) (160 to 157)
Chicago-Kent (160 to 157)
Univ. of Denver (159 to 156)
Seton Hall (159 to 156)
Univ. of South Carolina (158 to 155)
Louisiana St. (158 to 155)
SUNY-Buffalo (157 to 154)
Seattle U. (157 to 154)
Univ. of Louisville (156 to 153)
Quinnipiac (156 to 153)
William Mitchell (155 to 152)
Univ. of Missouri - Kansas City (155 to 152)
Mercer (155 to 152)
Univ. of Idaho (154 to 151)
Southwestern (154 to 151)
South Texas (154 to 151)
Pace (154 to 151)
New York Law School (154 to 151)
California Western (153 to 150)
Widener-Delaware (152-149)
Golden Gate (152 to 149)
Roger Williams (151 to 148)
Oklahoma City (151 to 148)
Capital (151 to 148)
Barry (149 to 146)


  1. Thanks for compiling those data. They reveal that not quite one law school in six has avoided a decline in its median LSAT score, and that almost half have seen declines of three points or more.

    What does a decline of three points mean? Not much at the top end, say from 171 to 168. But going from 151 to 148 amounts to a decline of TWELVE percentage points. That's huge.

    Suffolk's eight-point slide from 154 to 146 represents a difference of THIRTY percentage points.

    Are there any surprises among the few schools that have seen their median scores go up? Perhaps some of them have achieved that feat by shrinking dramatically. How many law schools have pulled it off without significantly shrinking?

    As the smarter people avoid law altogether, law skules increasingly find themselves plumbing the depths of the 140s, the 130s, and, yes, even the 120s just to put asses into seats. By abandoning the very pretense of standards, they make a mockery of law as a learnèd profession.

    Old Guy

  2. Nice work, Hofstra. Keep on truckin'.

    1. I really think Hofstra should give up and merge with Touro. The Fuchsberg Law Center has a better facility, a better location, and some rich and powerful backers who specialize in leveraged buyouts.

    2. I disagree on the sole basis that I'm trudging through my 3L year as we speak. Hofstra, while it is an undisputed toilet, still has lots of alumni on LI who give its students some respect (that's why I have a job). To dilute the name for Touro's objectively better, well, everything except reputation I suppose, would be good for 1L's, but I'm already checked out. At least now I can say I don't attend the worst school in the near NY area.

  3. I am curious which 2 schools went up by 2-3 LSAT points?

    1. That's a deep mystery to me so far. I found a couple of 1-point increases, including Texas A&M, but how on earth could a school increase by 2 or 3 points in a collapsing market?

    2. The two + outliers come from opposite ends of the prestige/selectivity spectrum. Stanford increased its median by two points, from 170 to 172. The University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth increased its median by three, from 144 to 147.

      In the latter case, the school's increase between 2011 and 2014 was likely helped along by the fact that it achieved ABA accreditation in 2012.

    3. That looks like a policy decision on Stanford's part. They must have chosen to add an explicit preference for high LSAT scores to their fuzzy "holistic" admissions process. Since they're taking the high scores away from slightly lower schools, that shows up in the LSAT medians at places like Chicago (down 1 point), Virginia (down 1 point), and NYU (down 2 points). Also Georgetown (down 3), Boston U (down 4), and Notre Dame (down 3).

  4. It would be interesting to have off-the-record conversations with some of the long-time profs at these schools regarding what I suspect is a noticeable drop in student aptitude over the past five years. Some of the bottom-feeder school are now accepting large numbers of students who, judgment from their LSAT scores, have basic deficiencies in reading comprehension.

  5. Wow, these numbers are really deplorable. The schools that are admitting applicants with LSAT scores in the 140s (and lower) are completely shameless and morally bankrupt. They clearly don't care at all about students, the integrity of the legal profession, or taxpayers. Don't any of the faulty at these places have pangs of conscience about what they are doing? Surely at least a few law "professors" must feel guilty about the fact that their generous salaries are financed by students taking on ruinous debt, and by the taxpaying public. What I am curious about is how some of these students with basement-level LSAT scores manage to even get through law school and earn a JD. I completely understand why many of them can't pass the bar exam upon graduation, but how do they even survive the rigor of studying the law? After all, the law is the same whether you're learning about it at Yale or Barry, and it's complicated and difficult stuff. How do these students with such sub-mediocre academic preparation manage to wrap their heads around complex legal concepts? Do these schools water down their curriculum, and simplify things to make it easier? (Which would in turn also contribute to low bar passage rates.) It would be interesting to see how the same legal concept is taught at a T14 school versus how it is taught at a fourth-tier school.

    1. Yes, most law skules nowadays are nothing but milking operations that exploit the arbitrage opportunity offered by guaranteed student loans to any US citizen whom the law skules decide to admit.

      Some of the worst law skules are little better than three-year bar-review courses. (Some in fact incorporate bar review into the curriculum.) Many toilets extensively use multiple-choice tests and other dumbed-down evaluations. And, yes, professors do complain about seas of students who cannot read, write, or think.

      Old Guy

    2. This is an excellent comment, but I also want to note that it contains a truly excellent typo in the third line. "Faulty" in place of "faculty."

    3. I am the author of the original comment at 10:07. I noticed my typo shortly after submitting my comment -- oops! But I agree that it's a perfectly appropriate typo, and one that conveys more truth than the correctly spelled word!

    4. Great typo, dude, but I don't think it'll go over too well at The Faulty Lounge.

    5. Faulty is what you get when your faculty are obviously below sea level.

  6. In 2007 in the run-up to my own entry into law school, I was basically told that 150 was the floor; below that you shouldn't expect admission. Does anyone else remember something similar?

    1. Eight years ago, yes, that was not far from the truth.

      Even two or three years ago, 140 was approximately the threshold of admissibility at the very worst law schools—those, for example, that were at risk of losing their accreditation. A few people might have scraped into those schools with a 139 or a 138, but really the 130s were the province of the Puerto Rican law schools (where the imposition of an English-language test on a largely Spanish-speaking applicant pool is the primary reason for the low scores).

      Today, by contrast, there's really no score that would keep a person out of law school. As I've said before, a year ago the U of Texas, widely regarded as prestigious, admitted someone with a 128. Last summer André "Dougie Fresh" Pond Scum, then dean of Indiana Tech, characterized 143 as "a serviceable score".

      Old Guy

    2. Old Guy,

      In the figures above, I did not include the three Puerto Rican law schools which, as you noted, have the lowest scores. I figured that the problem was exactly as you stated, imposing an English language test on a Spanish-speaking applicant pool, and so I did not think that the scores from these institutions were relevant.

    3. For the same reason, the Canadian law schools that teach in French do not require the LSAT, although the ones that teach in English do.

      This past year saw the first trial of a Spanish version of the LSAT, for use in Puerto Rico only.

      Old Guy

  7. How soon before law schools start accepting GRE scores in lieu of the LSAT?

    Some business schools (the other great, yet less expensive scam) have already started accepting the GRE instead of GMAT. It's a great way of maximizing the application pool.

    1. Rutgers already got away with that. It wasn't one student either - the number was somewhere in the teens.

    2. I think Rutgers was accepting GMAT scores at the law school, not GRE scores. I wonder why anyone who had second thoughts about an MBA program would think law school was any better. Out of the frying pan and into the fire...

  8. Looks like Georgetown was the only T14 to make the list. Way to be short-sighted, guys. My guess is you would have been much better off shrinking your class than lowering your admission standards.

    1. Their class quality is actually substantially worse than their reported numbers because they except hordes (~100 every year) of transfer students from lower ranked schools.

    2. I need to look this up, but I think Georgetown did shrink their class size. They just couldn't shrink it fast enough to maintain their medium LSAT as the applicant pool collapsed.

    3. Considering all that's happened on this blog recently, I find it astonishing that you spelled "hordes" correctly. But not "accept."

      Good point about Georgetown transfers.

    4. In principal, it peaks my interest to know that just because G'Town hear in D.C. excepts hoards of transfers it shouldn't effect there reputation, witch will continue to be exemplary weather or knot they decide two brake the bear minimum on LSAT scores, and have recently aloud lower-score students to compliment there class ranks, and in order to meat they're enrollment goals...

  9. Gimme a Hamline sandwich, hold the Touro, with 7-point McGeorge nuggets and a side of Golden Gate fries!

    1. Hmmm. Hamline may not have been the best example to use. They maintained their LSAT median at 153, at least from 2010 to 2013, but only by decreasing their entering class from 227 to 88 poor souls. That's a decline of over 60 percent, which pleases me no end.

    2. Armageddon has to be looming at Hamline. The parent university is a small liberal arts school that isn't rich enough to suffer losses from the law school for long.

  10. I'm eagerly anticipating the 25th percentile declines being posted on Friday. Good job, Mr. Team!

    Emory was down something like 7 points at the 25th percentile, but I really want to see the whole list.

    1. Perhaps the law skules should be required to publish the highest and lowest LSAT scores for their entering classes.

      Old Guy

    2. My impression is that they've never been shy about publishing their highest LSAT score. You do have to dig for the low scores, that much is true.

  11. Third Tier Drake suffers a 4 point drop in median LSAT. Nice! That space would be better as Cafe Rio or Burger King anyway.

    1. Wait, let's spin this the right way. It's now easier than ever for an average student to get accepted to Drake, keep a scholarship for 3 years, and then...not find a legal job. Oh yeah, forgot about that part...

  12. Old Guy,

    How are you getting those percentage changes from the raw changes in your first post?

    1. Run the search "LSAT raw score percentile" to get a table of conversions. Although the conversions between raw scores and percentiles are changed with every administration of the test, a table that is a few years out of date will be accurate enough for many purposes. The differences from test to test are relatively slight.

      For example, 152 is around the 52d percentile, and 149 is around the 40th. That's a difference of twelve percentage points.

      Old Guy

    2. Should have included a link to a scaled score to percentile rank conversion chart in the post.

      Here is one:

    3. Thanks for that. I was scared for a minute that all those statistics credits were a waste when I couldn't figure it out without knowing the n or the distribution.

    4. For the statistically inclined, the distribution is, not surprisingly, normal. It is centered around 151, with roughly a 10-point standard deviation.

      The scaled scores (I shouldn't have said raw scores) are themselves assigned to raw scores (numbers of questions answered correctly) on a scale that varies from administration to administration. Sometimes it is possible to get a 180 with as many as three questions answered incorrectly; sometimes only one incorrect answer is allowed.

      Old Guy

    5. "Sometimes it is possible to get a 180 with as many as three questions answered incorrectly; sometimes only one incorrect answer is allowed."

      Sure, rub salt in THAT old wound, why doncha.... ;-)

  13. Pair this with the July 2014 bar passage rates that dropped dramatically across the board. Students who graduated in May 2014, started law school in the Fall of 2011.

    Enrollment standards and LSATs have plummeted since Fall 2011.

    Tax Prof Blog has the historical data. Go look at Thomas Jefferson's bar passage rates since 2009.

    Thomas Jefferson's bar passage rates have been less than 75% and more than 15 percentage points under the statewide average for six years running, i.e. since 2009. That is, Thomas Jefferson has been out of compliance with the ABA bar passage rate rule since 2009, but retains accreditation.

    Thomas Jefferson has a MEDIAN LSAT score of 145 for its Fall 2014 1Ls.

    The shit hasn't even hit the fan yet.

    The classes that started in 2012 and in 2013 and in 2014, what will their bar passage rates be?

    This industry will never stop. It will never stop. It is wholly corrupt, and it has government backing.

    It wouldn't matter if all the graduates of the last two decades lined up and shot themselves on the capital steps. They'd hose it down and keep the free money rolling to Thomas Jefferson, to her creditors, to private equity in Chicago, and on and on.

    1. I've thought the exact same wrt TJ. I reread standard 316. Are they gaming the system somehow with the provision that they report at least 70% of the bar takers by throwing away 30% of the worst jurisdictions or something?

      I'd really like to know if anyone has clicked the complaints alleging noncompliance on the aba page and reported them.

    2. This is what Tax Prof Blog lists as the ABA averages and pass rates since 2009 for TJ:

      Date Statewide Average TJ Pass Rate Below Average
      Jul-09 79.30% 46.50% -32.80%
      Jul-10 75.20% 58.10% -17.10%
      Jul-11 76.20% 33.30% -42.90%
      Jul-12 76.90% 52.33% -24.57%
      Jul-13 75.90% 50.30% -25.60%
      Jul-14 69.40% 44.70% -24.70%

      It is a big mystery to me how TJ did not lose accreditation last year.

      Slightly better, but in the same boat: Whittier, Golden Gate, La Verne, Southwestern. They all look like they are out of compliance to me, based on what Tax Prof posted.

      But, TJ, it's like, come on. How corrupt is this system?

      This school defaulted on $133 million in bond debt for a building it completed a couple of years ago, and our "regulator" is nowhere to be seen while cash flows directly from the DOE to TJ's creditors who now own the building but lease it back to her.

      The "rules" tell the whole story. You cannot fail the LSAT. There's no hard minimum cap on bar passage rates that gets a school dis-accredited immediately. A school could run 0% bar passage rates for 3 out of 5 most recent years and not be out of compliance - not that being out of compliance means anything. Apparently, it really doesn't.

      Bernie Madoff mini-mes far as the eye can see.

  14. I skimmed the comments but I don't think anyone has pointed out yet that as long as these parasites keep getting the loan dollars, they're not going to close. Campos has pointed out that even a bankrupted school better off running and accepting morons.
    Nothing is going to stop them from accepting drooling cretins if they can get their hands on that sweet money. Nothing.
    The Law schools are not going to stop unless they are stopped by outside forces. At this point, all we're doing is commenting on a slowly unfolding train wreck.
    I have had several recent TTT graduated approach me in the last three years asking about getting a job with my firm and all I can say us "what were you thinking?"

    1. Loan limits and underwriting standards are where the action's at. That's why the law school trolls over at Nando's site start jabbering in tongues when anyone mentions loan limits. They don't seem to get too excited about tuition caps. That tells you something.

  15. This is probably not a unique analogy, but federal student loan dollars are like a milkshake, and students are the straws through which law "professors" suck that milkshake. Students are straws to their professors, nothing more. And straws are disposable and replaceable, and after you finish your milkshake, who cares what happens to the straw? Lemmings, I beg of you, please DO NOT LET YOURSELF BE A STRAW!!!

    1. Excellent analogy. Far better than the "used condom" analogy, which I hope I never see extended to milkshakes.