Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Competition for Law Students: Golden, Popular, Marginal, and Scavenger Law Schools

Matt Leicher, Tough Choices for Some High-Ranked Law Schools:

This exercise has left me with a complete dataset on full-time law school applications, acceptances, and matriculations from 2004-2010. Nice. Since higher education institutions of all stripes are often judged by their “applicant yield,” the percentage of admitted applicants who matriculated, I wondered how this compared to their acceptance rates. Previously, I’d thought that the correlation would be clear: the more selective the school the higher the applicant yield. This in fact is not the case, and to my surprise, there are a bunch of law schools in the higher echelons that are not very popular with their applicants. These law schools are scavenging applicants that typically apply to law schools with very highest U.S. News rankings. To test this, I took the average acceptance rate since 2004, along with the average yield, and cut them into quintiles.

The following law schools are “Golden,” that is, they have are in the lowest quintile of acceptance rates and the highest in applicant yields, in alphabetical order by state:

  • Arkansas (Little Rock)
  • Stanford
  • Yale
  • Hawaii
  • Maryland
  • Harvard
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Carolina Central...

Here are the “Indie” law schools, ones that are accommodating yet popular among accepted applicants (highest quintile for acceptances, highest for matriculations):

  • Faulkner
  • Southern Illinois
  • Nebraska
  • Duquesne
  • Pontifical Catholic (Puerto Rico)
  • South Dakota
  • Liberty
  • Regent...

Here are the “Marginal” law schools (very accommodating, low yields):

  • Phoenix
  • Golden Gate
  • Florida Coastal
  • Miami
  • New England
  • Western New England
  • Thomas M. Cooley
  • Charlotte
  • Dayton
  • Appalachian
[F]inally, our list of scavengers, the group I find interesting:
  • USC
  • American
  • George Washington
  • Georgetown
  • Boston College
  • Cornell
  • Duke
  • Vanderbilt
  • George Mason
  • William & Mary

Three of these are in D.C., and all of them made the top 50 in U.S. News‘ last two rankings. To give you an idea how ferocious competition is among them for the handful of applicants whose LSAT scores are so high you’d think they could levitate objects with their minds, Chicago barely made it off the list.

Here’s what they look like graphed together, plus the remaining T14 law schools.

The one in the upper left is Yale, the lowermost left, Southern California, the three in the upper right are the Puerto Rican law schools, and in the lower right, Cooley (Phoenix is above it). Although the marginal law schools are the ones that face imminent applicant crisis, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with the scavengers. There will be far fewer quality applicants this year, so these law schools will either cut their class sizes (whether they announce it or not) or they’ll have to accept mere-mortal applicants and risk reducing their rankings.

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