One Group of Law School Applicants That’s Growing: High-Scoring Kids

A blog about business and economics.
Aug. 21 2014 3:58 PM

One Group of Law School Applicants That’s Growing: High-Scoring Students

It's not such a bad time to apply to Harvard Law after all.

Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images

When law school applications began collapsing a couple of years back, a troubling pattern emerged. Some of the biggest percentage drops were among elite applicants with high LSAT scores. The smallest declines, meanwhile, were among candidates with especially low LSAT scores—the aspiring J.D.s who were most likely to end up at diploma mills that leave scads of graduates unemployed. The higher-scoring students got the message that the job market was a mess. But the news wasn’t filtering down to the students most likely to get screwed by the system. As I wrote at the time, “The wrong people have stopped applying to law school.”

Since law school classes are still shrinking, I found myself wondering if the trend had changed at all. Judging from data provided to me by the Law School Admission Council, applications still aren’t falling nearly enough on the very low end of the LSAT range. Year-to-date, applicants scoring less than a 140 have ticked down less than one-tenth of a percentage point.


But here’s the most interesting bit: The number of top-tier applicants—those with at least a 170 on their LSAT—is growing again. These are students who can probably make it into one of the very few law programs where graduates never experienced significant underemployment. Their numbers are still well down from a few years ago but seem to have stabilized—they're realizing that now really is a good time to go to law school (so long as you can get into a decent program).


* * *

For those who are extra-obsessive about this topic, I've put together this chart showing the three-year changes to law school applications by LSAT band. Main takeaway: The declines we've seen in the past few years are going to hit middle-range schools the hardest unless they significantly lower their admissions standards.


Jordan Weissmann is Slate's senior business and economics correspondent.



Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.