Thursday, March 14, 2013
Balkinization: The Visible Deterioration of Law School Quality, by Brian Tamanaha (Washington U.):
A red flag is signaling the potential deterioration of quality at a significant number of law schools. ... Rapidly rising acceptance rates provide ample reason to worry. A decade ago, for the entering class of 2003, only 4 law schools accepted 50% or more of their applicants (the highest at 55.4%). ... The most worrisome aspect of this deterioration is that a truly severe crunch is set to hit law schools this coming year: the number of applicants for entry in 2013 will be around 55,000, substantially down from 68,000 applicants for the class of 2012. It is likely that more than 100 law schools nationwide will accept 50% or more of their applicants (20 schools accepted between 45% and 49% in 2012), and perhaps several dozen law schools will accept two-thirds or more of their applicants. ...
Over two dozen law schools have seen painful declines in selectivity in the past decade. For example, New England School of Law accepted 37.2% of applicants in 2003, compared to 89% in 2012. (John O’Brien, the dean of NESL, who reportedly earns in excess of $800,000 annually, is the immediate past Chair of the ABA Section on Legal Education.) In the same ten year period, Suffolk went from 40.2% to 74%; John Marshall (Chicago) from 35.9% to 63%; Thomas Jefferson from 38.7% to 73%, and so on.
Acceptance rate is a measure of selectivity (although it can be artificially manipulated) because the deeper a law school digs into the applications pile, the lower the caliber of students it lets in, at least by LSAT/GPA measures. A number of law schools appear headed toward near open admissions for the upcoming entering class.