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Monday, November 25, 2013

Organ: Understanding Trends in Demographics of Law Students

The Legal Whiteboard:  Understanding Trends in Demographics of Law Students – Part Three, by Jerry Organ (University of St. Thomas):

In Part One, I analyzed how analysis of changes in applicants from LSAC’s Top 240 Feeder Schools demonstrates that graduates of more elite colleges and universities have abandoned legal education at a rate greater than graduates of less elite colleges and universities.

In Part Two, I analyzed how the pool of applicants to law school has shifted with a greater decrease among applicants with high LSATs than among applicants with low LSATs resulting in a corresponding increase in the number and percentage of matriculants with LSATs of <150.

What might explain why applicants to law school are down more significantly among graduates of more elite colleges and universities than among graduates of less elite colleges and universities? What might explain why applicants to law school are down more significantly among those with LSATs of 165+ than among those with LSATs of <150? Is there some relationship between these data points? ... [I]t is very likely that these two data points are related – that the greater decline among applicants from more elite colleges and universities is correlated directly with the greater decline among applicants with LSAT scores of 165+.

I want to offer three possible explanations for this differential response to market signals among different populations of prospective law students. The first two focus on the possibility that market signals are communicated differently to different populations. The third focuses on how different populations of prospective law students simply might respond to the same market signals in markedly different ways.

  1. Different Pre-Law Advising Resources May Mean Market Signals Penetrate Some Populations of Prospective Law Students More Deeply Than Other Populations of Prospective Law Students.
  2. Different Social Network Signals and Influences
  3. Different Decision Matrices Based on Socio-Economic Status and Opportunity

Regardless of the explanation for the current changes in application patterns, it would appear that the population of law students not only is shrinking, but may be going through a modest demographic transformation, with a somewhat smaller percentage of law students representing the socio-economic elite and a somewhat larger percentage of law students from lower on the socio-economic scale. First-year students in 2013 may be slightly less “blue blood” and slightly more “blue collar” than they were in 1991. Whether this is a short-term trend or a longer term reality remains to be seen. What it might mean for legal education and the legal profession over time also remains to be seen.

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Comments

Hmmmmmm. Methinks the professor has overthought the issue. One obvious reason that students from the LSAC’s top 240 feeder schools have higher LSAT scores is because they had higher SAT/ACT scores, which got them into their elite undergraduate schools to begin with. These same students tend to come from the upper middle and upper economic classes, strata of society that can and do present their offspring with greater and more varied opportunities for post-baccalaureate work and study. Besides, upper middle and upper class moms and dads are much more likely to be footing the post-baccalaureate study bill, and if they say they aren’t going to pay for law school, then junior better head to the MBA factory, med school, or the family investment bank.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Nov 25, 2013 8:14:40 AM