May 9, 2008
1L Attrition Rates Range from 51 to 0 Percent
LawSchoolNumbers.com reports some shockingly high 1L attrition rates for individual law schools. Shocking to me because my gut-check says anything above 10% is way too high and 78 of the 195 listed law schools have attrition rates above 10%. Of course admissions professionals may view this threshold as being too low, but even if it is doubled to 20%, 24 law schools have a reported attrition rate of 20% or more. Click on the pie chart image (below) to view a distribution of law schools in 5 percentage point increments.
From the data provided, 5,005 out of 49,013 first-year students nationwide left law school. That's 10.2% so I don't think my gut-check threshold is unrealistic. Whittier ranked first on a percentage basis with a whooping 51.5% attrition rate (95 drop outs in an entering class of 184) while Thomas M Cooley Law School ranked first in number of students: 531 out of a 1L class 2,042 (26%).
Both schools are exceptional cases, not representative of the legal academy as a whole. Whitter Law School's very strict (dare one say "old school") grading scale and mandatory distribution curve are probably responsible for the law school's high 1L attrition rate. Whitter has been on probation since 2005 for failing to comply ABA Standard 301, the bar passage rule (Interpretation 301-6). It now looks like the Whitter will be removed from its probationary status. [Dean Cogan's Letter to the Whittier Law School Community]. Will Whitter's grading scale and distribution curve survive?
Cooley Law School's admissions policy is very liberal and can be characterized (fairly, I believe) as "give law school a shot here." Some might criticize Cooley (some have for grabbing tuition monies from students who might not be prepared for law school) but I think at least one law school in this country ought to give aspiring lawyers the opportunity they might not get anywhere else. I've met several Cooley students who have nothing but praise for the school's admission policy.
13 schools reported no 1Ls leaving law school:
- Case Western Reserve
- Charleston School of Law
- Charlotte School of Law
- Loyola University Chicago
- New Mexico
- Ohio State
- South Dakota
- Stanford University
One problem with the report is that it is difficult to make much sense out of the data because the reasons why students left are not quantified. As noted by Michael Froomkin (Miami):
If I were trying to make sense of this number, I’d not only want to know why people left (especially flunking vs. transfers), and where they left to, but also how many transfers IN the school had. Although there too, the number would need to be treated with care. A school that loses large numbers to transfers out and gains few is a place people want not to be (or a great feeder school). A place that is more or less in balance seems to make the transfers figure something of a non-issue. A place that is a huge net gainer is probably a place people want to be — but it’s also a place that likely is gaming its US News stats, which a student might think reflects poorly on its general ethical climate, or at least suggests the number has even less meaning than usual.
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I am a cooley 3L on AP.
Posted by: cooley3L | Jun 6, 2012 10:55:41 AM
cooley is given a hard time but miles ahead of whittier and many others.
When you are the largest you get a hard time just because of that reason alone.
Posted by: cooley | Oct 29, 2010 8:47:53 AM
I was "cut" from Whittier Law School June '04. I felt Whittier's practices were very shady and that the school was basically a money making scheme. They purposely wouldn't give our first semester grades to use until the last day for a refund for the second semester had passed. Had I known I had not done better then a C's first semester, I probably would have dropped to save myself the extra $15ish thousand I spent in school spring semester. They made it impossible to know your status until they had your money and I'm still outraged. I know many who have had the same experience, even a friend who was kicked out 1/2 through 3rd year! I asked a professor once why I got certain grade on a test and was told it is because all the A's/B's were already given out and that they had to "fail" a certain amount of students, hinting that had my blue book been closer to the top of the stack I would have had a better grade. Whittier admitted close to 400 1Ls that year.
Live and learn I suppose. I recently retook the LSAT and am going back to school Fall '09 at a Tier 1 school, with a low attrition rate. I guess I do have to credit WLS for giving me the motivation to really do so well on the LSAT this time around so I never go through an "educational" experience like that again.
Posted by: Anonymous | Apr 11, 2009 11:53:41 AM
When I left Case Western mid 1L a few years ago, my departure was classified as a "leave of absence". A handful of other people left around the semester too, presumably under the same classification. There were people who left at the beginning of the year. I question the honesty of some of these schools' assertions, and think this study is worthless without examining the overall (3 year) attrition picture.
Posted by: Anonymous | Mar 16, 2009 1:49:19 AM