Home / General / Number of first year law students with very low LSAT scores grows by 50%

Number of first year law students with very low LSAT scores grows by 50%

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Over at The Legal Whiteboard, Jerry Organ has been analyzing the LSAT scores of recent law school entering classes, and he’s come to the conclusion that the national entering class of 2013 has 50% more matriculants with LSAT scores of less than 150 than the class that graduated this year. (The percentage of such matriculants grew from 14% to 21% between 2010 and 2013. Meanwhile the percentage of matriculants with LSAT scores of more than 165 fell by 15%). He also estimates that the number of law schools whose entering class has a median LSAT of less than 150 has gone from nine to nearly 30 over the past three years. (That is, from 4.5% to around 15% of all ABA schools).

Does it matter that law students are on average getting less intelligent? (You can add as many caveats as you want about how standardized tests in general and the LSAT in particular are very far from perfect proxies for even analytical intelligence, let alone other sorts of intelligence, how there’s a lot more to being a lawyer than analytical intelligence, how measurements of native intelligence are severely distorted by SES and other factors etc. All very true. None of this alters the fact that, on average, people with high LSAT scores are smarter than people with low LSAT scores).

I’d like to address this question in the context of a question asked by commenter mch in the thread regarding the situation at New England Law School:

I think of New England the way I think of Brooklyn, a place for less-than-brilliant (with exceptions) students, most of whom just want to get their training in order to do good while make a living. I am slightly acquainted with a trustee of New England (a graduate of a grandee law school and a grandee partner at a grandee Boston firm) who shares my vision of selected “lesser” law schools. I dunno. I guess I’m trying to articulate a misgiving I sometimes feel in reading your many excellent posts, Paul, a misgiving rooted in my experience with lawyers and law professors at a variety of schools. With people who value the role of certain “lesser” law schools in both giving certain potential lawyers an opportunity and providing the world with both perfectly serviceable, and needed, estate lawyers and criminal defense attorneys for the poor…. How many Harvard vs. NEL law students do criminal defense or prosecuting, for instance?

I don’t think criminal law practice in general, either on the state or the defense side, is a good proxy for less intellectually challenging legal work, but that’s a quibble not relevant to the real issue, which is: what about types of legal practice that are in fact highly routinized, and that people with LSAT scores of less than 150 can perform perfectly adequately (yes yes there are some brilliant people who are terrible at taking standardized tests, I already acknowledged this so shut up already)? Shouldn’t there be law schools that cater to people who want to do that kind of work, as opposed to figuring out how to structure a new form of poison pill or to get the 10th circuit to reverse itself on some picayune procedural issue?

The problem here is twofold:

(1) The market is already far more than saturated with lawyers who are able, willing, and licensed to do such work.

(2) The market is slowly figuring out, in its clumsy and imperfect way, that you don’t really need to use a lawyer to get such work done adequately. Hence DIY lawyering, outsourcing, e-discovery etc etc.

So no, as a matter of rational social policy, we no longer need law schools that cater to people who can’t manage to score 150 on the LSAT (Which by the way is an extremely learnable test that measures basic reading comprehension skills more than anything else. 87.43% of LGM commenters could hit 150 on the LSAT without even studying for it).

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