BusinessWeek reports that low test scores are not the same barrier to law school then they were previously.
The LSATs are the SATs of the law school world, and they tend to figure highly into the admissions criteria for highly ranked law schools. Just ask the US News and World Report annual rankings. And the scores for new law school students are going down.
“…since 2010, 95 percent of the 196 U.S. law schools at least partially accredited by the American Bar Association for which the NCBE had data lowered their standards for students near the bottom of the pack.”
Is it just the lower tiered schools? Nope.
“In fact, 20 of the 22 U.S. News top-20 schools—there was a three-way tie for 20th place—were enrolling students with lower test scores. Across all schools, LSAT scores for the 25th percentile dropped an average of three points.”
It isn’t too surprising considering that law school application rates have been declining. As job prospects face across-the-board declines, people normally attracted to other things will try their hand at law school. It does seem to be the default choice for people who don’t know what else to do.
BusinessWeek claims this isn’t good, but only in the context of correlation to the bar exam.
“LSAT scores matter because they tend to correlate closely with scores on one section of the bar exam, so when schools admit lower-scoring students on the former test, they risk producing more graduates who have a hard time passing the bar. “
All things being equal, yes, but bar exams also tend to weighed and curved.
However, there is another reason. If the LSAT does its job and judges aptitude for the study and practice of law (a dubious proposition, but whatever), then more people are going to law school who should be doing other things regardless of what this means on yet another test. Plus, the bar exam can be taken multiple times, so flunking out once does not kill your budding legal career.
The fact is that the practice of law can be rewarding, but it can also be hard work, long hours and very stressful.
Few people engaged in it tend to be happy. Furthermore, people going as a fallback career are entering into some of the worst job markets for new graduates. There is still a glut of unemployed and underemployed lawyers and hiring does not seem to have recovered.
People entering law school should think carefully about the three-year, unpleasant and expensive choice they are about to make.