Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Number of LSAT Test-Takers Falls 16.4%

The number of students taking the LSAT last month (the October test historically has the greatest number of takers) was down 16.4% from last year (and down 37.8% from 2009's all-time peak). There have not been this few LSAT test-takers in October since 1999.

Year June % Chg Oct. % Chg Dec. % Chg Feb. % Chg Total % Chg
2009–2010 32,595 12.6% 60,746 19.8% 50,444 15.6% 27,729 -1.3% 171,514 13.3%
2010–2011 32,973 1.2% 54,345 -10.5% 42,096 -16.5% 25,636 -7.5% 155,050 -9.6%
2011–2012 26,812 -18.7% 45,169 -16.9% 35,825 -14.9% 22,152 -13.6% 129,958 -16.2%
2012–2013 25,223 -5.9% 37,780 -16.4%            

Update: Matt Leichter, Some LSAT Tea-Leaf Reading:

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"argue from anecdotes and ipse dixit when their own financial interest is at stake"

Personally, I visualize Yul Brynner intoning "So shall it be written! So Shall It Be Done!"

But Yul is dead, profs.

Posted by: sca721 | Nov 21, 2012 5:55:35 PM

I have to agree with 1st Anon. The day of loose anecdotes and proclaiming "they're lots of great jobs!" and "the JD is useful for lot of uses!" doesn't hack it anymore. It has to be stats and analysis. Personally, I have no doubt that for many students the JD makes economic sense -- but I don't expect anyone to believe me unless I offer stats and analysis.

These debates are interesting for me not just on the merits, but also for what the reveal about some of the law professors. When you watch them discussing their own specialty topics, you might conclude that they form conclusions from evidence and logic and that they are quite willing to make lots of progressive reforms to make society more fair. When we discuss law school costs, however, we find that some of those professors are stubbornly against change and prefer to anonymously argue from anecdotes and ipse dixit when their own financial interest is at stake.

Posted by: John Steele | Nov 21, 2012 12:18:25 PM

To the second anon (who I have to assume is a professor):

Numbers please?

Please provide data to refute the data showing what a risky financial gamble law school is in light of employment outcomes vs. cost to attend (for schools ranked lower than, let's say, Georgetown, i.e. the remaining 185 out of the 200 or so ABA approved law schools, hence "most"). The data I'm referring are available, by school, conveniently at

Start with your own school, and provide data that counter the simple story that the data at Law School Transparency tell. Help someone hoping to become a full time practicing attorney at law firm of 50 attorneys or more, understand why on earth they should consider incurring over 100k in non-dischargeable debt to attend any law school outside the top 15, where the chance of placement as such firms is no better than a flip of a coin (the debt, on the otherhand is certain for most, data also available on Law School Transparency).

Again, please provdie data, not anecdotes, or unprovable hyperoble.

Aha! You can't. You are either purposefully naive, or maliciously self interested.

Posted by: Anon (the first one) | Nov 21, 2012 10:56:18 AM

"The internet has proven . . . "

Yes, the internet has "proven" many things, such as government cover ups of top secret autopsy's of aliens, Microsoft tried to buy the Catholic church, Elvis is still alive, is a great investment, there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Jews are secretly plotting to take over the world, and President Obama is Kenyan Socialist Muslim.

You might not want to swallow every crackpot theory you read on the internet. The claims that law school is a bad investment for "most" are no more well informed than these other urban legends.

If fewer people want to take the LSAT because they believe non-sense they read online, it just means better jobs and more money for those who do their homework and actually look at the data.

Posted by: Anon | Nov 21, 2012 9:25:04 AM

I wanted to echo what Anon said. I recall teaching the Legal Profession course in 1997, when students had not a clue about profits per partner, how billable hours work, what legal salaries were, what the stats were for first jobs, how gender related to career choice, etc. I was the hiring partner at an AmLaw 200 and even I had trouble finding some of that. (Eventually, Bill Henderson became a terrific source of stats and he always shared willingly.) But it seems to me that it wasn't until students got active that we starting seeing the stats that matter most to students -- and even then the stats were initially offered up begrudgingly or even deceptively. As Anon suggests, the internet was the critical medium for disseminating that information. Now that most law schools have the fear of god about false stats, the remaining sources of market distortion are the taxpayer-backed, no-BK loans and some permanent level of poor decision making by applicants.

Posted by: John Steele | Nov 21, 2012 8:23:22 AM

Law schools have long benefited from perceptions that were simply not accurate regarding the value proposition of obtaining a law degree (at least for those that, *imagine this*, actually want to obtain gainful permanent full time work as an attorney that pays enough to service their debts with a little something left over).

The internet has exposed the truth, and more folks are begining to act rationally, i.e., performing a cost/benefit analysis in light of the information now being made available (that had previously been manipulated or completely hidden). Law school has simply become a wildly expesnive gamble that doesn't make sense for most.

It's just that simple. Nothing against professors, nothing against administrators. Just a bad deal for the vast majority of those weighing it.

The drop in takers is a good thing.

Posted by: Anon | Nov 20, 2012 2:22:47 PM