At our law-and-econ lunch at Indiana University we talked about the Simkovic-McIntyre paper on the value of going to law school and the point that law students are a select bunch. My father, citing his experience in the Navy in 1945 and as a grand jury foreman in the 70's, liked to say that university people don't understand what ordinary people are like. So I looked up some facts, and here is my guess at what a typical law student is like.
He doesn’t go to Yale, or to Indiana. He goes to Albany Law School, a typical third-tier law school. Its 25th-75th LSAT scores are 149-155, a midpoint of 152. The bottom of the Top 100, the1st and 2nd tier, is William Mitchell, with 154. 152 is about the 52nd percentile of LSAT test takers.
I came across this conversion formula for SAT to LSAT (correlation):
LSAT = (SAT Math + SAT Verbal)/20.7 + 100.7
That gives us an SAT score of 1062 for our Albany Law student, from
152 = (SAT Math + SAT Verbal)/20.7 + 100.7
51.3*20.7 = 1062, 531
He is at about the 58th percentile of the SAT.
That's a score of 1590 if we multiply 531 by 3. A website rather optimistically suggests that someone with a three-test score of 1590 apply to these colleges (25th-75th percentiles of admitted students):
Howard University (SAT Scores 1310-1960)
Iowa State University (1575-1995)
University of California-Santa Barbara (1570-1930)
Indiana University-Bloomington (1545-1890)
Biola University (1490-1860)
The New School (1500-1860)
University of California-Santa Cruz (1530-1880)
University of Louisville (1500-1905)
Michigan State University (1470-1870)
Regent University (1395-1755)
University of California-Davis (1530-1910)
Huntingdon College (1245-1965)
Goshen College (1450-1970)
For a better chance of getting in, he should apply to these ones instead:
The University of Montana (SAT Scores 1390-1780)
University of Idaho (1410-1770)
University of New Mexico (1395-1800)
Whittier College (1435-1780)
Fisk University (1360-1670)
Morehouse College (1380-1710)
Thus, it looks to me as if the typical law student isn't all that much smarter than the typical undergraduate at a college selective enough to require an admissions test. He's a little smarter, though.
What does that mean for thinking about the value of a law degree ? Our typical law student doesn’t now and never did have a chance at Big Law. But his alternative to law school is little better than that of other college students.