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Dumpster Diving Into the ABA’s 509 Information Reports (Statistics + Graphs)

So I noticed on the TaxProf Blog that the newest crop of ABA 509 Information Reports on accredited law schools came out recently. It’s good that the ABA has begun to release this data. It can help students look at trends at schools over time. Unfortunately, there are only reports from 2011 to date available. Whenever some official body like the ABA or the LSAC dumps of numbers, I like to dig around for a bit and see what I can find. For the past couple of years I’ve done it with LSAC data that indicated that top university students are avoiding law schools, and schools where there have been increases in law schools applicants (2013, 2014). The general theme was that “the best and brightest students” from top schools have been shying away from going to law school. And that lower ranked schools were increasingly sending more students to law school.

For a lark (and because I’m stuck at home sick with the flu), I decided to go through some of the 509 reports and pull data. I picked the Top Ten schools as listed in Above The Law’s Top 50 Law School Rankings (represent) to see if any particular trends were visible. I also choose the ten lowest ranked schools according to US News & World Report’s Best Law School Rankings (note, I choose the bottom ranked schools, not those listed as “unranked”). I pulled out three sets of data to compare. GPA percentiles, LSAT percentiles, and matriculant percentage change from 2011 to 2014.

GPA Percentiles

Click for large version.

Click for large version.

As is to be expected, the 75th and 25th percentiles at the top schools has remained largely flat. The real change comes at the bottom ranked schools. While the 25th percentile has remained largely flat, it’s because it doesn’t really have any lower to go (look at the axis). But there has been a steady decline in the GPA of the 75th percentile. Not good.

LSAT Percentiles

Click for huge version.

Click for huge version.

Aha! Now here is a change across the board. LSAT scores, both at 75th/25th percentile and at Top/Bottom schools are trending downwards. While the change at the top schools is minimal, it is still trending downwards.

Matriculant Percentage Change From 2011 to 2014

Click for huge version.

Click for huge version.

Holy precipitous decline Batman! Just look at all that red. I had to make this chart gigantic to fit the huge declines the schools have been facing. Again, it’s much, much worse at the bottom ranked schools, but a few things stand out.

  • Virginia and Michigan, the #9 and #10 ranked schools respectively, both have had double-digit percentage decline in matriculants. Is that just tightening the belt a bit or a sign of things to come?
  • The bottom ranked schools, with the exception of Chapman, are having a bloodletting. New York Law School has had nearly a 50% decline in matriculants since 2011. That can’t be sustainable.
  • This isn’t even taking into account all the “unranked” schools listed by US News & World Reports.

All in all, it looks like the general malaise affecting law schools is going to continue.

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(As an aside, could the ABA post the data in a more inconvenient way?! Just dump the raw data. We don’t need separate PDFS for every year for every school!)

  • JamesP

    Wow, that looks awful. People are really going to go to those law schools at the bottom of the list? No way they make it more than a couple more years at this rate.

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  • steph9

    It’s about time people woke up. The country is bloated with lawyers and law schools. Time for some of these places to close.

  • despiser

    Lets see. Lawyers are all nasty selfish POS liar scumbags. The only people that desire tp be one of them is other Nasty selfish POS scumbag.

    The Democrat Party is owned and operated by Trial Lawyers…

    Law should be understandable to the average person. That “Lawyers” themselves have made it otherwise should awaken even the most dense.

    • Really? Every single lawyer is a POS liar scumbag? You must get around to know every single lawyer. I get that you probably came here from Instapundit, where all of society’s ills can be blamed on lawyers. But we strive to have a higher level of discourse here than “all of X, is Y’s fault.” If this is all you have to contribute, don’t come back.

      • Odd to slam Professor Reynolds’ content and readership after the link to your site. You might also remove the “Tell me what you think . . . ” imperative at the top of your comment bar given that is not really desired here.

        • “All of X, is Y’s fault” isn’t thought, it’s drivel.

      • The profession of law deserves its fair share of pillory, despite whatever fault you can find with his predicate calculus. I would disagree with the original poster’s first three statements by degree, but the last two are precisely correct: law should be comprehensible to the average person and lawyers have muddled law for their own benefit, if not all lawyers, then some malefactors (who are nonetheless shielded from disbarment by their caste).

        Whatever you might think of “Instapundit”, it would be very wise not to expect any sympathy from the general population to a narrow clerisy that charges thousands of dollars to people in extreme duress, as in divorce, or bankruptcy, or other deep pain. I have a few good friends who are lawyers, and they are kind and caring people, but let’s not posture like their profession is in–as they themselves would confess after a measly glass of wine–the business of justice any more than simply winning their case to pad their resume to move up to attorney general or out in the private sector to their next fortune.

  • FrancisChalk

    Law schools have consistently overstated the employment prospects of their graduates for many years. The newly minted lawyers haver experienced the fallout from this false advertising and now the market realities have kicked in and it’s the law schools feeling the effects. The honesty of the market place has once again been reaffirmed.

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