December 04, 2010
LSATs, Applications, and the Future of Law Schools
Posted by Gordon Smith

Jodi Triplett at Most Strongly Supported is talking about the latest LSAT numbers:

Last year, 60,746 test takers sat for the October LSAT, the single largest administration of the LSAT in the history of the test according to Wendy Margolis, Director of Communications for LSAC.... Would the October 2010 LSAT continue the alarming trend? Small picture answer: no. 54,345 test takers took the October 2010 LSAT, a decrease of 10.5% from the previous year, but still the second highest single administration in the history of the test.

Why does Jodi find large numbers of LSAT takers alarming? You know the story. People go to law school, incur large amounts of debt, and get jobs at Walmart. Something like that.

Last year's LSAT numbers seem to have been the peak of an upward trend, but the number of applications to law schools had been declining until the recession, and I am told that the number of applications nationwide are down again substantially this year. This decline in applications is consistent with the predictions in a fascinating new paper by Bernard Burk and David McGowan, who argue that a decline in law school applications will follow as "the lessons of hard experience ... seep into the market." This despite a recent survey finding that "81% of respondents said they would still apply to law school now even if a significant number of law school graduates were unable to find jobs in their desired fields."

According to Burk and McGowan, the changing market for legal services will result not only in fewer applications to law school, but also in applicants who are more concerned about the value proposition. Perhaps this explains why applications to BYU are up this year, bucking the nationwide trend, as we are consistently listed high among the best value law schools.

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