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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, February 4, 2013

LSAC: Comparing Law School Applicants to all College Freshmen

LSAC Cover 1LSAC, Behind the Data: Comparing Law School Applicants to all College Freshmen:

According to data from the 2010 census, approximately 28% of the US population is non-White. The population of non-White lawyers in the United States is less than 10%. Since 1986, concerted efforts to increase the pool of underrepresented minorities in the field of law have shown limited success—the percentage of minority lawyers has risen from 8% in 1990 to 10% in 2009. Although a number of programs have been established to help support students from minority populations who express an interest in law, and a limited number of studies have documented the rate of “leakage” in the pipeline to law school and the legal profession, very little systematic work has been done to examine background factors that lead to the study of law. This report illuminates how students’ backgrounds, experiences, and goals may affect their decision to apply to law school and their ultimate success in applying and being admitted to law school. Group differences for many socioeconomic variables were as expected, but the analysis of the data also showed that underrepresented minority applicants were more focused on their career plans and expressed higher self-ratings on drive to achieve. In addition, grades, standardized test scores, and socioeconomic status were related to whether or not freshmen expressed an interest in studying law and to their decision to apply to law school. 

Data available through the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) and its member law schools were combined with data from The Freshman Survey (TFS) available through UCLA’s Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP). This unique data set contains, for each applicant, (a) information the applicant submitted to law schools, (b) first-year average (FYA) in law school, and (c) responses to 91 items from the TFS, including information about their parents’ education and income as well as their own goals, aspirations, and plans for the future. 

The Freshman Survey has been administered at over 1,500 institutions in the United States. The 171,000 law school applicants who applied during the academic years 2006–2007 through 2008–2009 were compared and then matched to the 2.8 million TFS respondents for 1999 through 2005 using the student’s name (first name, middle initial, last name), date of birth (month, day, year), gender, freshman-year institution, and year of their freshman fall semester. Matches between LSAC and TFS data were successfully completed for 39,573 law school applicants. This represents approximately 23% of the applicant population for the years 2006 through 2008.

National Law Journal, Future Law School Applicants Are Wealthier, More Self-Confident:

No, it's not your imagination. Aspiring lawyers tend to be more self-confident, enjoy more family wealth and are more likely to have a lawyer parent than the average college student, according to research released by the Law School Admission Council. ...

Among freshmen who went on to apply to law school, 50% reported that their families would pay $10,000 or more toward their undergraduate expenses, compared to 31% for all college freshman. The aspiring lawyers also had more highly educated parents: 41% said their father held a graduate degree, and 28% said their mother held one. That compared to 23% and 18%, respectively, for all college freshman.

The aspiring lawyers rated themselves more highly than the typical college student regarding academic ability, public speaking, drive to achieve and tendency to socialize with students outside their own race. Of the eventual law school applicants, 87% reported that they had "above average" academic abilities, compared to 69% of all college freshman.

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