Why the decline in administered LSATs is irrelevant to law school applicants

When my ship came in, I was at the airport.


Last week the New York Times featured a story focusing on a drop in the number of LSATs administered. The article noted that:

The Law School Admission Council reported that the LSAT was given 129,925 times in the 2011-12 academic year. That was well off the 155,050 of the year before and far from the peak of 171,514 in the year before that. In all, the number of test takers has fallen by nearly 25 percent in the last two years.

I read this with great amusement. In the 1997-98 cycle the number of LSATs administered fell to as low as 104,000. That’s approximately 25% less than the current number!  This is why it is dangerous to look at too small of a sample. But, speaking of statistics …

It’s probably better to get your statistics directly from the Law School Admission Council. As we know: there are “lies, dam lies and statistics”. Nevertheless, here are two sets of statistics that may be of interest.

1. The number of LSATs administered from 1987 to 2012.

2. LSAC volume summary showing both the number of law school applicants and the number of LSATs administered from 2001 to 2011.

It is true that both the number of applicants to ABA approved law schools and the number of LSATs administered has been on a bit of a decline. Furthermore, these two aspects of the law admissions process seem to be correlated.

What does it mean?  Why is it newsworthy? Even if you could discern what it  means, why would it matter to law school applicants? Why would it matter to the law schools?  Why would it matter to LSAT preparation courses and LSAT tutors? Here is what I think the answers to these questions are:

1. What does a decline in LSATs administered mean?

It just means that fewer people are taking the LSAT. This has no effect on LSAT scores. Who are the winners? Nobody. Who are the losers? The Law School Admission Council (they sell the LSAT), the LSAT prep industry and the law school admission consultants.

2. Why is this newsworthy?

Actually, I don’t think it is. There was a major recession in the 1990s. In the 1997-98 the number of LSATs administered fell to approximately 104,000. Compare that number to today! There is always an ebb and flow in the number of applications to anything. There is an ebb and flow to anything. There is an ebb and flow in the real estate market … It’s just life.

3. Why would any of this matter to law school applicants?

Assuming that the decline in LSATs administered is correlated to a decline in law school applications, it probably means that the competition to be admitted to some law schools will be less. It will not affect the competitiveness at the top law schools (whatever they are).

4. Why would this matter to the law schools?

Obviously the overall demand for their product has fallen slightly (it is always up and down). This will put pressure on the least competitive schools. This is good for law school applicants. Some applicants may have a slightly greater choice of schools. It won’t make  the slightest difference to the most competitive schools.

5. Why would this matter to LSAT prep courses, LSAT tutors and Law School Admission Consultants?

Well, now we are on to something here. Probably not a great time to in the LSAT prep business. But then again, maybe the least competitive prep courses and tutors will leave the business.

The decline in the number of LSATs administered doesn’t mean anything to a law school applicant. The decline does affect some of the other “stakeholders” in the game.

So, you want to be a lawyer? Are you a serious law school applicant?

Some advice from a long term admissions counselor (that would be me).

1. Ignore all this crap. It’s just noise. The real issue is whether or not you want to go to “law school”. Note, I said “law school”. I know that your final goal is to become a lawyer. But, if you really don’t think you would enjoy law school, then you shouldn’t go period.

2. The easiest way to get into law school is to take courses that you like. If you don’t like your courses,  you won’t get good grades. If you don’t get good grades …

3. Broaden your mindset. If your mindset is such that the “ONLY” thing you want to do is law school, you are in trouble. I do encourage law. It presents lots of opportunities. But, it is not the only game in town. Pay attention to all that is going on around you. I remember a great bumper sticker that read:

“When my ship came in, I was at the airport.”

4. Stop reading discussion boards, blogs, etc. It is misdirected focus. Every second that you are on a discussion board, somebody else is working on their LSAT, grades or law school application.

Conclusion: The decline in LSATs administered (interesting as it may be) means nothing to a serious law school applicant. Ignore it. The United States of America is a “nation of laws”. It will always need lawyers to obscure  (sorry I meant interpret) them.

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

(and this principle is not affected by the ebb and flow of LSATs)