Monday, May 2, 2016

Changes in Reporting and Classifying of Law-School-Funded Positions Result in Decline in Number of Graduates in Full-Time, Long-Term Law-School-Funded Bar-Passage-Required Positions

This blog posting summarizes how recent changes in the definition and reporting of law-school-funded positions have impacted the number of law-school-funded positions classified as full-time, long-term or full-time, short-term bar-passage-required positions for graduates in the Class of 2015. Comparisons between results for the Class of 2014 and the Class of 2015 show a significant decline in the number of full-time, long-term bar-passage-required positions that are law-school-funded (from 831 to 398) and a significant increase in the number of full-time short-term bar-passage-required positions that are law school funded (from 184 to 277). Overall the number of law-school-funded bar-passage-required positions declined by one-third, from 1015 to 675, as a result of these changes.

Changes in Reporting Framework and Definition

In March 2015, the Council for the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar approved a change in the reporting of law-school-funded positions to take effect this spring with reporting of employment outcomes for the Class of 2015. Previously, law schools included law-school-funded positions within all other employment categories “above the line” and then delineated “below the line” the number of law-school-funded positions in each category. Under this approach, between the Class of 2012 and the Class of 2014, the number of full-time, long-term bar-passage-required positions that were law-school-funded increased from 517 to 831, an increase of more than 60%.

With the change, however, the Council added “Employed – Law School Funded” as a separate “above the line” category such that law-school-funded positions no longer are included in other categories (e.g., Employed – Bar Passage Required or Employed – JD Advantage), although law schools are still required to provide more detailed information about the different categories of law-school-funded jobs “below the line” on the employment summary report.

In July 2015, the Council also approved a change in the definition of when a law-school-funded position may be classified as a “long-term” position, requiring that it be a position the employer expects to last at least one year with a salary of at least $40,000 per year.

Long Term. (OLD DEFINITION) A long-term position is one that does not have a definite or indefinite term of less than one year. It may have a definite length of time as long as the time is one year or longer. It may also have an indefinite length of time as long as it is expected to last one year or more.

Long-term. (NEW DEFINITION) A long-term position is one that the employer expects to last one year or more. A law school/university funded position that the law school expects to last one year or more may be considered long-term for purposes of this definition only if the graduate is paid at least $40,000 per year. . . .”

This change also took effect with the reporting of employment outcomes this spring for the Class of 2015.

An example might help explain how these changes might impact classification of a given position. Assume you have a graduate of Law School A in 2014 who took a one-year position as a lawyer with a public interest law firm as part of a “bridge-to-practice” program, working on a full-time basis and receiving a stipend of $24,000 paid partly by the law school. Law School A agreed to subsidize a portion of the stipend for a year but the law school continued to support the graduate’s ongoing effort to seek other gainful employment during the year.

In the Class of 2014 reporting format, this graduate could have been classified and probably would have been classified “above the line” in the full-time, long-term Employed – Bar Passage Required category because the job had a defined duration of one year even though the student might not be planning on staying in the position for the entire year. (This graduate also would have been listed separately “below the line” in the law-school-funded category as having a full-time, long-term bar-passage-required position).

Following the March 2015 changes, a Class of 2015 graduate in the same job, working as a lawyer with a public interest law firm on a full-time basis and receiving a stipend of $24,000 paid partly by the law school, would have been classified “above the line” in the full-time, long-term Employed – Law School Funded category and not in full-time, long-term Employed -- Bar Passage Required. (As was the case with the Class of 2014 graduates, this graduate also likely would have been listed separately “below the line” in the law-school-funded category as having a full-time, long-term bar-passage-required position).

Following the July 2015 changes, a Class of 2015 graduate in the same job, working as a lawyer with a public interest law firm on a full-time basis and receiving a stipend of $24,000 paid partly by the law school, would be classified “above the line” in the full-time, short-term Employed – Law School Funded category because under the new definition of “long-term” either or both the lack of an employer expectation that the job would last for one year or more or the lack of a stipend of at least $40,000 would mean that this job would not qualify as “long-term” and therefore would be classified as “short-term.” (This graduate also would be listed separately “below the line” in the law-school-funded category as having a full-time, short-term bar-passage- required position).

Consequences of the Change in Reporting Framework and Definition

With the ABA’s release of its Employment Summary report reporting employment for graduates of the Class of 2015 ten months after graduation, we can compare law-school-funded positions for the Class of 2015 with law-school-funded positions for the Class of 2014. The following table includes results from all law schools listed in the ABA’s Employment Summary spreadsheets for the Class of 2014 and for the Class of 2015.

Law School Funded Bar Passage Required, Full-Time, Long-Term and Full-Time, Short-Term Positions for the Class of 2014 and Class of 2015

YEAR

FTLT BPR LSF

FTST BPR LSF

TOTAL BPR LSF

Class of 2014

831

184

1015

Class of 2015

398

277

675

Full-time, long-term bar-passage-required positions that were law-school-funded declined by more than 50% from 831 to 398. Meanwhile, full-time, short-term bar-passage-required positions that were law-school-funded increased by roughly 50% from 184 to 277. Overall, however, law-school-funded positions that were in one of these two categories declined by 340 or by roughly 33%, from 1015 to 675.

Although it is not easy to know for sure, the most plausible explanation for these changes is that some of the jobs previously classified as full-time, long-term bar-passage-required positions had a stipend or salary lower than $40,000 per year and that law schools offering such positions could not increase the salary sufficiently to continue to have such positions classified as full-time, long-term bar-passage-required positions under the new regime. Alternatively, or additionally, some positions may not have been classified as full-time, long-term bar-passage-required positions if the employers with graduates with law-school-funded positions did not expect that the position would last for at least one year. These possibilities would explain the shift of some positions from full-time, long-term to full-time, short-term, but they would not necessarily explain the complete loss of so many law-school-funded bar-passage-required positions.

The loss of roughly one-third of the law-school-funded bar-passage-required positions might be explained partly by the decline in the number of graduates passing the July 2015 bar exam compared with July 2014.

Additionally, a portion of the loss of roughly one-third of the law-school-funded bar-passage-required positions also might be explained by the reality that there was more perceived “value” in a law school being able to claim a law-school-funded positon as a full-time, long-term bar-passage-required position than a full-time, short-term bar-passage-required position. With the change in reporting framework and definition, some law schools may have concluded that further investment in law-school-funded positions was not justifiable, particularly given how USNews accounts for these positions in its rankings (a point highlighted by Derek Muller in his post about these changes in law-school-funded positions).

Different Responses across Different Law Schools

  • The Top-25 Law Schools for Full-Time, Long-Term Law-School-Funded Bar- Passage-Required Positions for the Class of 2014

The decline in law-school-funded bar-passage-required positions was manifested most particularly at several law schools. The top-25 law schools for full-time, long-term, bar-passage-required positions that were law-school-funded for the Class of 2014 (those schools with 10 or more law-school-funded positions classified as full-time, long-term bar-passage-required positions), are responsible for the vast majority of the decline in such positions for the Class of 2015. Across these 25 law schools, the number of graduates in full-time, long-term bar-passage-required positions that were law-school-funded fell from 676 to 295, a drop of 381 out of the total decline of 440 or nearly 87% of the total decline in such positions. Across these 25 law schools, the number of graduates in full-time, short-term bar-passage-required positions that were law-school-funded increased from 11 to 213, far exceeding the actual increase in such positions (which was counter-balanced by several schools greatly reducing the number of full-time, short-term bar-passage-required positions that were law-school-funded).

  • 14 Law Schools in the Top-25 for Law-School-Funded Positions that Saw Significant Changes in Law-School-Funded Bar-Passage-Required Positions Between the Class of 2014 and the Class of 2014

There was a subset of 14 law schools within this group that saw the most significant changes between the Class of 2014 and the Class of 2015, being responsible for 359 of the 440 decline in full-time, long-term bar-passage-required positions that were law-school-funded and being responsible for an increase from 8 to 202 in the full-time, short-term bar-passage-required positions that were law-school-funded. These 14 law schools are set forth in the following table in descending order of the full-time, long-term bar-passage-required law-school-funded positions in the Class of 2014.

School

2014 LSF FTLT

BPR

2015 LSF FTLT

BPR

2014 LSF FTST

BPR

2015 LSF FTST

BPR

2014 Graduates

2015 Graduates

George Washington

78

6

0

19

584

465

Georgetown

64

35

0

53

626

678

Emory

52

0

0

20

268

308

American

44

4

0

40

460

464

Michigan

33

2

5

21

390

354

Southern California

31

7

0

20

217

213

Texas

23

11

1

1

351

354

Vanderbilt

22

0

0

12

194

185

Notre Dame

22

4

1

0

179

179

California-Berkeley

20

11

1

2

287

278

William and Mary

19

0

0

3

215

178

California-Davis

19

9

0

0

169

185

Washington Univ.

14

2

0

10

258

228

Cornell

11

2

0

1

191

183

TOTAL

452

93

8

202

4389

4252

Notably, across these 14 law schools, the total number of bar-passage-required positions that were law-school-funded declined from 460 (of which only eight were short-term) for the Class of 2014 to 295 (of which 202 were short-term) for the Class of 2015. At these 14 law schools, therefore, there not only was a decline of 165, over one-third, in the number of full-time, law-school-funded, bar-passage-required positions, there also was a dramatic shift in the ratio of full-time, long-term to full-time, short-term bar-passage-required positions, from over 98% to less than 33%.

  • 11 Law Schools in the Top-25 for Law-School-Funded Positions that Did Not See Significant Changes in Law-School-Funded Bar-Passage-Required Positions Between the Class of 2014 and Class of 2015

At the other 11 law schools among the top-25 for law-school-funded positions that were bar-passage-required in the Class of 2014 there was not a significant decline in law-school-funded positions that were bar-passage-required for the Class of 2015. These 11 law schools are set forth in the following table in descending order of the full-time, long-term bar-passage-required law-school-funded positions in the Class of 2014.

School

2014 LSF FTLT

BPR

2015 LSF FTLT

BPR

2014 LSF FTST

BPR

2015 LSF FTST

BPR

2014 Graduates

2015 Graduates

New York Univ.

36

30

0

2

479

485

Virginia

33

30

0

0

349

367

UCLA

31

31

2

0

336

335

Columbia

31

28

0

0

468

413

Harvard

24

20

1

0

586

589

Illinois

15

10

0

2

185

181

Boston University

12

12

0

0

246

208

Brigham Young

11

9

0

0

138

133

Chicago

11

6

0

5

210

196

California-Irvine

10

20

0

0

93

110

Stanford

10

6

0

2

187

195

TOTAL

224

202

3

11

3277

3212

These law schools either already had salaries of at least $40,000 for most of their law-school-funded bar-passage-required positions for the Class of 2014 or made the decision to make sure that the vast majority of their law-school-funded bar-passage-required positions for the Class of 2015 had salaries of at least $40,000, as the number of full-time, long-term law-school-funded positions that were bar-passage-required across these 11 law schools only declined by 22 while the number of full-time, short-term law-school-funded positions that were bar-passage-required increased only by eight. The ratio of full-time, long-term to full-time, short-term bar-passage-required positions across these 11 law schools changed very little, from over 98% to nearly 95%.

  • The Remaining Law Schools

Across the remaining law schools, for the Class of 2014, there were only 57 law schools across which there were 155 law-school-funded positions that were full-time, long-term bar-passage-required positions. For the Class of 2015, there were only 46 law school across which there were 103 full-time, long-term positions that were bar-passage-required. Across this set of schools, therefore, there was a decline of 52 positions or roughly one-third in the number of full-time, long-term bar-passage-required positions.

Across all the remaining law schools, for the Class of 2014, there were only 24 law schools with a total of 173 full-time, short-term bar-passage-required law-school-funded positions. For the Class of 2015, there were only 19 law schools with a total of 64 full-time, short-term bar-passage-required, law-school-funded positions. Thus, full-time, short-term bar-passage-required positions that were law-school-funded declined across these law schools by over 100.

In total, then, these other law schools saw law-school-funded bar-passage-required positions decline from a total of 328 for the Class of 2014 to only 167 for the Class of 2015, a decline of nearly 50%.

Total Changes in Law-School-Funded Bar-Passage-Required Positions

Between the Class of 2014 and the Class of 2015

 

2014 LSF BPR FTLT

2015 LSF BPR FTLT

2014 LSF BPR FTST

2015 LSF

BPR FTST

Top 25 (10 or more LSF BPR FTLT in 2014)

676

295

11

213

11

224

202

3

11

14

452

93

8

202

Other Schools with LSF

155

(57 schools)

103

(46 schools)

173

 (24 schools)

64

 (19 schools)

Total

831

398

184

277

(I am very grateful to Janelle Chambers for her research assistance in compiling this data and am very grateful to Scott Norberg and Bernie Burk for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this blog posting.)

May 2, 2016 in Data on legal education, Scholarship on legal education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Mixed Signals from the Legal Employment Market – Preliminary Results for the Class of 2015

THIS BLOG UPDATES THE EARLIER BLOG POSTING TO INCORPORATE DATA FROM THE ABA's EMPLOYMENT SUMMARY SPREADSHEETS FOR THE CLASS OF 2014 and CLASS OF 2015 AS OF MAY 3, 2016, WITH DOUBLE-COUNTED DATA FOR MITCHELL|HAMLINE IN THE CLASS OF 2015 REMOVED AND WITH ALL LAW-SCHOOL-FUNDED POSITIONS FOR BOTH YEARS REMOVED FROM THE CALCULATIONS.  THE 2015 NUMBERS NOW MATCH THOSE ON THE ABA's 2015 LAW GRADUATE EMPLOYMENT DATA SHEET RELEASED ON MAY 3 WHILE THE 2014 NUMBERS NOW MATCH THOSE FOR 2014 ON THE ABA's 2015 LAW GRADUATE EMPLOYMENT DATA SHEET ONCE LAW-SCHOOL-FUNDED POSITIONS ARE REMOVED.

The Class of 2015 employment summary reports have been posted by all ABA-accredited law schools, resulting in reporting of results for some states or regions.  The ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar released the complete Employment Summary spreadsheet for all law schools on its website yesterday (May 2) and updated it today (May 3) and likely will be updating it again tomorrow (to eliminate the double-counting for Hamline, William-Mitchell and Mitchell|Hamline).

In this initial post I provide a brief summary of the Class of 2015’s employment outcomes compared with the Class of 2014’s employment outcomes based on data from these spreadsheets as of described above.

In a subsequent post (posted on May 2) I provide a summary of changes in the reported number of law-school-funded, bar-passage-required positions between the Class of 2014 and the Class of 2015 as a result of changes in the classification and reporting of such positions.

Changes in the Percentage of Graduates and Number of Graduates in Full-Time, Long-Term Bar-Passage-Required and JD Advantage Jobs

Across all law schools for which the ABA has released employment summary data for the Class of 2015, the percentage of graduates in full-time, long-term bar-passage-required positions and full-time, long-term JD advantage positions increased from 69% for the Class of 2014 to 70.1% for the Class of 2015. This would appear to be modestly good news. When you disaggregate the two categories, the full-time, long-term bar-passage required positions went from 58% to 59.2% while the full-time, long-term JD advantage positions went from 11% to 10.9%.

Because there was a significant decline in the number of graduates across these law schools between 2014 and 2015, however, this modest increase in the percentage of graduates in these positions masks an actual decline in the number of graduates in such positions. There were 39,984 graduates in the Class of 2015 compared with 43,832 graduates in the Class of 2014, a decline of 3,848 graduates, or 8.8%. There were 28,029 graduates in the Class of 2015 with full-time, long-term bar-passage-required or JD advantage positions, compared with 30,234 graduates in the Class of 2014 with such positions, a decline of 2,205, or 7.3%.

When these totals are disaggregated, full-time, long-term bar-passage-required positions declined from 25,417 for the Class of 2014 to 23,687 for the Class of 2015, a decline of 1,730, or 6.8%. For full-time, long term JD advantage positions, the total went from 4,817 to 4,342, a decline of 475, or 9.9%.

(Please note that numbers for both 2014 and 2015 exclude law-school-funded positions from both categories.  The ABA's 2015 Law Graduate Employment Data sheet compares Class of 2014 INCLUDING law-school-funded positions with CLASS of 2015 EXCLUDING law-school-funded positions, which leads to slightly different results showing a more exaggerated decline in the number of graduates in full-time, long-term bar-passage-required and JD advantage jobs that also results in a decline in the percentage of graduates in such positions.)

Comparison of Full-Time, Long-Term Bar-Passage-Required Positions and JD Advantage Positions for the Class of 2014 and Class of 2015

 

Graduates

# FTLT

BPRJDA

% FTLT

BPRJDA

# FTLT

BPR

% FTLT

BPR

# FTLT

JDA

% FTLT

JDA

Class of 2014

43,832

30,234

69%

25,417

58%

4,817

11%

Class of 2015

39,984

28,029

70.1%

23,687

59.2%

4,342

10.9%

Change

(3,848)

(2,205)

 

(1,730)

 

(475)

 

Changes in the Number and Percentage of Graduates Whose Employment Status is Unknown or Who Were Classified as Unemployed Seeking or Unemployed Not Seeking

Looking at the other end of the employment outcomes continuum, however, both the number and percentage of graduates who had unknown employment outcomes, or who classified as unemployed seeking or unemployed not seeking, declined slightly between the Class of 2014 and the Class of 2015. For the Class of 2014, there were 5,778 graduates whose employment status was unknown or who were classified as unemployed seeking or unemployed not seeking. This represented 13.2% of the 43,832 graduates. For the Class of 2015, however, there were only 5,200 graduates whose employment status was unknown or who were classified as unemployed seeking or unemployed not seeking. This represented 13% of the 39,984 graduates.

Searching for Explanations

In the coming weeks and months, there likely will be a number of commentators offering suggestions for why the Class of 2015 might have seen a decline in the number of graduates obtaining full-time, long-term bar-passage-required or JD advantage positions.

Part of the decline likely is attributable to the decline in the number and percentage of graduates passing the July bar exam, as reported by the NCBE in its annual statistics publications for each of the last three years.

Year

First-Time Bar Takers in July from ABA-Accredited Law Schools*

First-Time Bar Passers in July from ABA-Accredited Law Schools

July Pass Rate Among First-Time Takers from ABA-Accredited Law Schools

2013

47,465

38,909

82%

2014

44,282

34,333

78%

2015

39,955

29,772

75%

*Note that the NCBE’s classification of first-time takers is over-inclusive in that it reflects not just graduates from May who are taking the bar exam for the first time in July, but also graduates from a prior year who might be taking the bar exam for the first-time in a given jurisdiction even if they have previously taken the bar exam in another jurisdiction. Thus first-time bar passers includes some people who are not part of the graduating cohort in a given year.

In the two-year period, then, between 2013 and 2015, the number of first-time takers from ABA-accredited law schools taking the July bar exam who passed the exam and became eligible for jobs requiring bar passage declined by roughly 9,100 and by nearly 23.5%. Moreover, the percentage of all first-time bar takers taking the February exam rather than the July exam also increased slightly between 2013 and 2015 from 18.7% to 19.7%, which might mean slightly more May 2015 graduates might not have been positioned to accept a full-time, long-term bar-passage-required or JD advantage position as of March 15, 2016, because they may have been studying for and taking the February 2016 bar exam.

Part of the decline also likely is attributable to market conditions in some parts of the country. For example, a recent story about graduates of Texas law schools noted that the decline in oil prices and tort reform may have impacted hiring in the Texas legal market for graduates of the Class of 2015. Once the full set of employment outcomes is available, it will be easier to assess the extent to which certain states or certain regions might have seen better or worse results than other states or regions.

Part of the decline also may be a manifestation of the impact of technology on the legal services market, with the possibility that the legal services market will have slightly fewer entry level positions over the near term.

One Possible Counterpoint

If this decline in the number of full-time, long-term bar passage required positions is a manifestation of a weakening job market law graduates, then one would expect that salary data also would demonstrate weakness. Once NALP publishes its report on the employment results for the Class of 2015 later this summer, we will have a chance to assess the extent to which salary trends are consistent with a weakening legal services market or suggest that the market remains somewhat competitive. If this decline in graduates taking jobs that are full-time, long-term bar passage required or JD advantage jobs is counterbalanced by a continuation of the year-over-year modest increases in mean and median salaries in recent years for  law graduates, it might suggest that that there is less market weakness than this initial employment summary might indicate.

Concluding Thoughts

For those thinking that the recent news about the improving situation with respect to applicants to law school is the beginning of an upward trend that will gradually return law schools to first-year class sizes in the 45,000 to 46,000 range, this employment outcomes data provides a cautionary tale. The fact that the employment market for law school graduates appears to have stagnated and even declined to some extent over the last two years may mean that risk averse potential law school applicants who focus on post-graduate employment opportunities when assessing whether to invest in a legal education may remain skittish about applying, such that this year’s good news on the applicant front may be somewhat short-lived.

(I am very grateful for the research assistance of Janelle Chambers in gathering data for this blog posting prior to the release of the ABA Employment Summary spreadsheet and for very helpful comments on earlier drafts of this blog posting from Scott Norberg and Bernie Burk and for the helpful insights of Debby Merritt as we worked on reconciling data in the ABA spreadsheets.)

May 1, 2016 in Current events, Data on legal education, Scholarship on legal education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Projections for Law School Enrollment for Fall 2016

In this blog posting I am doing two things. First, I provide a detailed analysis to estimate the likely total applicant pool we can expect at the end of the current cycle based on trends from March through the end of the cycle in 2013 and 2014 and 2015. Second, given the increase in the strength of the applicant pool, I suggest that law schools in the top 60 or 70 of USNEWS ranking will see more enrollment growth and profile stability in comparison with law schools further down the rankings continuum.

ESTIMATES OF THE TOTAL NUMBER OF APPLICANTS

Reviewing the 2013, 2014, and 2015 Cycles to Inform the 2016 Cycle

The table set forth below shows the number of applicants in the admissions cycle as of early March in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 along with the projected total applicant pool (based on percentage of applicants at that point in the cycle in the previous year) and the actual total applicant pool at the end of each cycle (with an estimate of the 2016 total applicant pool).

2013 Current Volume Summary Date

Applicants

% of Cycle in Previous Year on This Date

Applicant Pool

Mar. 8, 2013

46,587

84%

55,460 Projected as of March 8 based on % of Cycle

End of Cycle

   

59,400 Actual

2014 Current Volume Summary Date

Applicants

% of Cycle in Previous Year on This Date

Applicant Pool

Mar. 7, 2014

42,068

79%

53,250 Projected on March 7 based on % of Cycle

End of Cycle

   

55,700 Actual

2015 Current Volume Summary Date

Applicants

% of Cycle in Previous Year on This Date

Applicant Pool

Mar. 6, 2015

39,646

76%

52,160 Projected on March 6 based on % of Cycle

End of Cycle

   

54,500 Actual

2016 Current Volume Summary Date

Applicants

% of Cycle in Previous Year on This Date

Applicant Pool

Mar. 4, 2016

42,981

76%

56,553 Projected on March 4 based on % of Cycle

End of Cycle

   

57,500 Estimate

In each of the last three years, a modest surge in late applicants meant the final total applicant count exceeded the March projections by more than 2000, with the amount by which the actual total applicant count exceeded the projected total applicant count getting smaller each year (dropping from roughly 4,000 in 2013 to roughly 2,300 in 2015). This “late surge” would suggest that the projection for fall 2016 based on the applicant pool as of March 4, 2016 (for just over 56,500) likely understates the end of cycle total applicant pool. To be somewhat conservative, I am estimating that the final total applicant pool in 2016 will exceed the early March projection by roughly 1,000, the smallest such increase in the last four years, resulting in an estimated total applicant pool of 57,500 (up about 5.5% from 2015). This would be the first increase in applicants since 2010.

ESTIMATES FOR ADMITTED APPLICANTS AND MATRICULANTS

The chart below shows the number of applicants, admitted applicants and matriculants over the last four years along with an estimate for fall 2016 based on the assumption above that we have a total of 57,500 applicants this cycle. With 3,000 more applicants than in 2014-15, I am assuming 2,400 more admitted applicants (roughly 80% of the additional applicants), and then assuming the number of matriculants will reflect close to the four-year average for the percentage of admitted applicants who matriculate – 87.6%. This would yield a first-year entering class of 39,150, up about 5.6% from 2015. (Using this process last April, I estimated a first-year enrollment of 36,975, 83 less than the actual first-year enrollment of 37.058.)

Estimates of Admitted Students and Matriculants for 2016 Based on Trends in 2012-2015

 

Applicants

Admitted Students

Percent of Applicants

Matriculants

Percent of Admitted

2012

67,900

50,600

74.5%

44,481

87.9%

2013

59,400

45,700

76.9%

39,675

86.8%

2014

55,700

43,500

78.1%

37,924

87.2%

2015

54,500

42,300

77.6%

37,058

87.6%

2016 (est.)

57,500

44,700

77.7%

39,150

87.6%

DIFFERENTIAL IMPACT ON ENROLLMENT AND PROFILES ACROSS DIFFERENT CATEGORIES OF LAW SCHOOLS

Earlier this year Ian Ayres noted that lower-ranked law schools have benefited from the rankings concerns of higher-ranked law schools. In the last few years, as higher-ranked law schools admitted fewer applicants in an effort to maintain their LSAT/GPA profiles, they left more applicants for lower-ranked law schools to admit. In this admissions cycle, the strength of the pool of applicants means things likely will swing the other way. Higher-ranked law schools likely will be admitting more students, leaving fewer students for lower-ranked law schools to admit.

INCREASES IN APPLICANTS WITH HIGH LSATs BODE WELL FOR HIGHER RANKED LAW SCHOOLS

For the first time in the last five years, we are seeing a year-over-year increase in the number of applicants with LSATs of 165 or higher. As of the April 15 Current Volume Summary, there were a total of 7,054 applicants with LSATs of 165 or higher, compared with 6,519 on April 17, 2015. Another 130 with LSATs of 165 or higher ended up applying during the balance of the 2014-15 admissions cycle, resulting in a total of 6,649. I am presently assuming there will be another 146 applicants with LSATs of 165 or higher in the balance of the 2015-16 admissions cycle for a total of 7,200. On average, over the past four years, 82.6% of these applicants have matriculated. I think it is going to be slightly higher this year as I think there are a number of top-60 or top-70 law schools dealing with revenue pressures from decreased enrollment in recent years that are going to take advantage of the stronger quality in this applicant pool to increase their first-year enrollment without seeing too much erosion in their entering class profile. Thus, I think we will see roughly 6,000 matriculants this year with LSATs of 165 or higher, an increase of nearly 500 from fall 2015.

Five-Year Trend in Applicants and Matriculants with LSATs of 165+ and Estimates for 2015

 

Applicants with LSATs of 165+

Matriculants with LSATs of 165+

Percent of Applicants Matriculating

2010

12,177

9,477

77.8%

2011

11,190

8,952

80%

2012

9,196

7,571

82.3%

2013

7,496

6,154

82.1%

2014

7,477

6,189

82.8%

2015

6,649

5,505

82.8%

2016 (est.)

7,200

6,000

83.3%

In addition, the number of applicants with LSATs of 160-164 also has increased in this cycle, from roughly 6,500 at this point in 2014-15 to over 6,800 in 2015-16. This likely means that at the end of the cycle there will be at least 300 more applicants with LSATs of 160-164, which likely will generate an additional 240 matriculants (roughly 80% or the 300 more applicants) in this range than in the 2014-15 admissions cycle. Combining these categories, when this admissions cycle ends, there likely will be 740 more matriculants with LSATs of 160 or higher in the 2015-16 applicant pool than in the 2014-15 applicant pool – from roughly 11,200 to nearly 12.000.

This increase in quality in the applicant pool means law schools ranked in the top 60 or top 70 or so (those with median LSATs near or above 160), collectively could be able to welcome more than 1,200 more matriculants than last year without meaningfully impacting their profile. (If the top 70 law schools garner 600 of the 740 additional applicants with LSATs of 160 or higher, they also could admit almost as many additional applicants with LSATs below their median without impacting their profile. For top-70 law schools focused on profile AND revenue, every additional matriculant with an LSAT above 160 who helps the law school maintain its median LSAT allows the law school to add a matriculant with an LSAT of less than 160.)(Of course, not all law schools are going to have the financial strength to continue to use scholarship resources to attract top applicants, so there likely will be some variability among top 70 schools in terms of enrollment growth/decline and in terms of profile retention/erosion.)

Continuing But Slowing Declines in Applicants with LSATs Between 150-159 Likely Will Present Challenges for Some Law Schools with Median LSATs Between 150-159 

Year

LSAT of 140-144

LSAT of 145-149

LSAT of 150-154

LSAT of 155-159

2013

6114

9439

11430

10920

2014

5893

8428

10587

9919

2015

6214

8665

10518

9681

2016 (est.)

6500

9000

10400

9600

Based on the numbers of applicants with LSATs between 150-159 as of the April 15 Current Volume Summary, the pool of applicants in this range is likely to remain flat or continue to show a modest decline as reflected in the table above. If law schools in the top-60 or top-70 do take advantage of the increase in applicants with LSATs of 160 or higher to increase their enrollment, then fewer of these 20,000 applicants with LSATs between 150-159 will be available to law schools with median LSATs in those ranges. This will put pressure on law schools with median LSATs of 150-159 to admit fewer applicants or to dip deeper into the applicant pool to fill their classes. (Note that while the pool of applicants with LSATs between 150-159 is flat to slightly down, the pool of applicants with LSATs between 140-149 appears to be increasing again this year, for the second year in a row.) Once again, enrollment results and profile results are likely to vary somewhat widely across law schools depending upon their relative financial strength and their ability to continue to use scholarship assistance to compete for qualified applicants.

CONCLUSION

If the estimates regarding applicants and matriculants above are accurate we will see roughly 2,100 more matriculants in the 2015-16 cycle. The increased strength of the applicant pool and the anticipated admissions strategies and efforts of top-ranked schools dealing with revenue pressures from reduced enrollment in the last few years likely will mean that most of the increase in matriculants, perhaps as many as 1,200 or more, will be among law schools that are relatively highly ranked – perhaps the top-60 or top-70.

This anticipated increase in enrollment among top law schools likely will decrease the number of applicants in the 150-159 LSAT range available to lower-ranked law schools, particularly given that the number of applicants with LSATs of 150-159 already looks like it could be slightly smaller this year. This likely will leave law schools outside the top-60 or top-70 facing challenging decisions of shrinking enrollment further to hold profile (and dealing with further revenue declines) or accepting declines in profile in exchange for stable or larger enrollments (and the corresponding revenue).

With continued growth in applicants between 140-149 to go along with the projection of a slight decline in the number of applicants with LSATs of 150-159, many law schools ranked outside the top-60 or top-70 may find it difficult to maintain their LSAT profiles as the pool of applicants from which they can draw their matriculants will be weighted more to the lower end of the LSAT distribution.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

First, what might explain the growth in the number of applicants with LSATs of 160 or more for the first time in the last several years? This group had been the “market leaders” in walking away from legal education in recent years. Is this a one-time bounce or is this group going to continue to return to legal education in larger numbers?

Second, why is the middle group – those with LSATs of 150-159 -- not showing an uptick in applicants, when there is growth among those with LSATs of 160 or higher AND growth among those with LSATs of 140-149? The group of applicants with LSATs of 150-159 is more likely to be able to pass the bar exam upon completing law school than the group of applicants with LSATs of 140-149. With bar passage rates falling significantly, particularly from those graduates of law schools with lower LSAT profiles, one might have expected that fewer people with LSATs of 140-149 would be applying to law school (as they are most at risk of bar passage failure), but this cycle shows continued modest growth in that pool of applicants while the group of applicants with LSATs of 150-159 is flat to down slightly.

Third, will this strengthening of the quality of the applicant pool portend an improvement in bar passage results in July 2019? It is too early to answer this question. Once actual enrollment profiles are available in December, it will be easier to analyze the possible impact on bar passage results.

(I am very grateful for thoughtful comments from Bernie Burk and Scott Norberg on an earlier draft of this blog posting.)

April 24, 2016 in Data on legal education, Scholarship on legal education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Charles Kindregan, R.I.P.

CkindreganDean Andy Perlman advised us a little bit ago that nationally-recognized family law (particularly on the issue of surrogacy) expert and beloved Suffolk Law  colleague Charley Kindregan passed away.  Charley had been in poor health for some time, but that didn't impact either his productivity or his friendly demeanor.  

He was a kind and caring colleague from the day I showed up at Suffolk almost nine years ago. I enjoyed very much wandering into his office, plopping down in a chair, and shooting the breeze.

He will be missed.

April 19, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Connection between Coaching and Mentoring and Great Lawyer Careers -- Sporkin's Kids and other Examples

My previous post excerpted the introduction "How to Solve the Legal Profession's Diversity Problem." The article suggests that our diversity challenges are rooted in a systems problem. First, our systems for selecting and developing lawyers is seldom grounded in science.  Second, the functioning of these systems are seldom viewed as critical to organizational success. Hence, the systems often poorly tooled, and the resulting data are under-analyzed.  These background conditions make it very difficult to understand and solve the diversity problem. 

In response, my article provides a baseline theoretical model for the creation of high performing lawyers (see figure below). This model operates with equal force for diverse and majority lawyers, albeit for reasons explained in the article, systems failures tend to have larger negative effects on women and diverse lawyers.

Fig1Model

My favorite part of the article is the discussion on component (5) Coaching & Mentoring, which is excerpted below.  This is the least technical section and also demonstrates that applied research can derives its initial theories from simple historical stories that are associated with extraordinary results.

This portion of the article references, among others, Walter Carter, Paul Cravath, Judge Stanley Sporkin, and some of the heaviest hitters in the SEC and corporate governance bar. Among these lawyers, coaching and mentoring launched tremendous careers.  My primary point is that if we understand the power of these relationships, we can channel it toward the benefit of diverse lawyers.


 (5) Coaching and Mentoring

The fifth and final component in my model is coaching and mentoring. A strong coach and mentor is often the vehicle through which a young lawyer receives developmentally rich work experience (3) and high-quality training and feedback (4). Yet coaching and mentoring is its own freestanding component because when it is done well it becomes an intense personal connection where talented professionals choose to allocate their valuable time and resources toward the success of others. Conversely, understanding the nature of the investment being made, the person being mentored experiences a mixture of heightened motivation and gratitude that enables him or her to persevere through virtually any professional hardship in order to reach long-term goals.

One of the best examples of the power of mentorship is New York City business lawyer Walter Carter, who served as a mentor to many of the leading corporate lawyers of the early 20th century. Carter’s accomplishments on this front were chronicled in a 1954 book entitled Walter S. Carter: Collector of Young Masters. According to the book author, Otto Koegel, Carter’s gift was spotting promising young talent and bringing them along as corporate lawyers who were capable of counseling executives of large financial and industry enterprises.

Paul_Drennan_CravathAn appendix at the back of Koegel’s book is a folded poster with a family tree of Carter’s lawyer progeny. One of the first nodes on the family tree is Paul Cravath, who worked for Carter as a junior lawyer. The subsequent branches document Cravath’s departure and movement to a firm that would later become Cravath, Swaine & Moore, where Cravath designed and implemented the “Cravath system.” According to the firm’s history, the Cravath system is largely credited with the firm’s eventual leadership position among Wall Street firms. The firm history also cites Walter Carter’s training principles as the basis for the system. Other branches on the Carter family tree connect founders or leaders at many familiar powerhouse firms of the 21st century, including Milbank Tweed, Willkie Farr, Cadwalader, Shearman & Sterling, and Hughes Hubbard.

I have also observed something similar to Carter’s impact on future leading lawyers, albeit within the context of a government agency. Colleagues in the securities bar have observed the phenomenon of “Sporkin’s kids,” referring to the many influential lawyers who worked under Stanley Sporkin during his long and distinguished tenure at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Many of Sporkin’s SEC protégés lacked the pedigree of an elite law school, yet they went on to become some of the most sought after and influential securities litigation lawyers of their generation. They include Edward Herlihy of Wachtell Lipton (George Washington Law), William McLucas of WilmerHale (Temple Law), and Ralph Ferrera of Proskauer (Cincinnati Law).

Sporkin150After two decades at the SEC, Sporkin became general counsel of the CIA and then a prominent federal judge. In preparation for writing this article, I contacted Judge Sporkin to ask him about this track record of mentorship. He commented that his philosophy was to look for intelligent young lawyers who would approach their jobs “with enthusiasm.” In Sporkin’s view, the law school attended was a poor proxy for these intangibles (Sporkin himself attended Yale). Further, according to Sporkin, it was critical that there be values alignment between the young lawyer and the mission of the agency. Otherwise, the lawyer could not keep up with the demands of working in his office. (Compare Sporkin’s observations to the Motivation factor outlined in this article’s five-factor model.) Judge Sporkin expressed gratitude for the lack of bureaucracy in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, which enabled him to hire so much raw talent according to his own criteria. He related the story of meeting a young Ralph Ferrera, who pleaded with Sporkin for an opportunity to work at the agency. Sporkin lacked the budget to hire him, so Ferrera worked for free until a formal staff position became open. The rest, as they say, is history.

In my experience, law firms undervalue the importance of coaching and mentorship. Carter and Sporkin had the power to make these investments on their own. Yet, today’s modern law firm emphasizes the production of revenues. The cost of nonbillable time can be readily calculated; the same cannot be said, however, about the value of nonbillable time. Partners who have given little thought to the power of professional development are most likely to resist large investments. They lack the systems perspective of Paul Cravath. I have studied lawyer development for over a decade. I think these partners are trading dollars for pennies.

Conclusion

The purpose of this article is to create a roadmap for solving the legal profession’s longstanding diversity problem. The solution is to end the moral handwringing and to create a system for selecting and developing lawyers. Yes, it will be expensive in time, money, and political capital, but not nearly as costly as wasting raw human potential. Glory, and possibly organizational riches, will accrue to the law firm leaders and general counsel who are brave enough and wise enough to demand that we go down this road. The time has come to fix this problem once and for all.


Interested readers can download the full article from SSRN.

March 25, 2016 in Data on the profession, Important research, Law Firms, New and Noteworthy, Scholarship on the legal profession | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Solving the Legal Profession's Diversity Problem

PDQ0216_lgBelow is an excerpt from an article I just published in the PD Quarterly.  The topic is diversity, one of the hardest and most intractable problems affecting the legal profession.  What makes this article different is that it is draws heavily upon my applied research with law firms.   

In the coming months, I will be writing more about applied research within the legal field -- in particular, the challenges of this work and why, notwithstanding the challenges, applied research is destined to grow in importance and influence.


 Here is a familiar fact pattern in large U.S. law firms.

Time 1. Partners come together and agree that diversity is part of their firm’s core values; they review the firm’s bleak statistics, particularly at the partnership level, and agree they can and will do better.

Time 2. Through significant time and expense, they successfully recruit a diverse class of incoming associates.

Time 3. A disproportionately large number of female and diverse associates leave the firm.

Time 4. The remaining associates eligible for partner are primarily white men.

Time 5. Partners come together and agree that diversity is part of their firm’s core values; they review the firm’s bleak statistics, particularly at the partnership level, and agree they can and will do better.

Why does this cycle repeat itself? As a long-time law firm researcher who has seen this cycle play out over several iterations, I can tell you that it is easy for a group of lawyers, especially those new to leadership, to convince themselves that they can solve the profession’s diversity problem through greater moral resolve. Yet, if the root causes are not moral in nature, we won’t make much progress.

In this article, I ask readers to consider the possibility that the profession’s lack of progress on diversity is a systems problem rather than a failure of moral resolve.

What does it mean to have a systems problem? Every firm has a system of recruitment, selection, development, feedback, evaluation, and promotion that enables law graduates to enter as legal novices and, through years of effort, acquire the skills, knowledge, and experience necessary to become partners. At most law firms, however, this system is driven more by tradition and past practice than science. Further, the system seldom places explicit or rigid demands on partner-owners because partner-owners prize their autonomy and are given the greatest rewards for bringing in business. To the extent the system relies on measurement, the quality of the data is uneven and under-analyzed. Stated another way, the “system” for creating successful lawyers and partners is not much of a system at all. And in this ignorance lies the cause of our diversity problem.

For the last several years, I have shifted my focus from academic to applied research. Although academic ideas can be elegant, compelling, and important, their major limitation is that we don’t really know if they will work in actual practice. Applied research attempts to sort this out, usually through social scientists hired by organizations that are hungry for a competitive advantage. The goal of applied research is to find solutions to important problems and then make them cheap and simple to implement. Law has a shortage of applied researchers, partially because the profession has been so prosperous for so long (what’s there to fix?) and partially because lawyers tend to be uncomfortable with data and statistics. Yet, these background factors are starting to change.

In this article, I am going to share what I have learned through my applied research as it bears on the problem of law firm diversity. The bottom line is that the problem is fixable. If we design and implement a better system, out the other side will flow successful diverse attorneys in roughly the same proportion as the number we managed to hire several years earlier. Further, the stakes are hardly academic. Organizations with a reliable system for creating diverse lawyers will have a competitive advantage for attracting clients and the best entry-level talent. Likewise, esteem and accolades await the leaders who finally make a breakthrough on law firm diversity.

You Have to Start with a Theory

An intelligent system is invariably built upon a theory drawn from multiple sources. One high quality source is published empirical research. A second is one’s own professional work experience: “When I have tried X, Y usually happens” — so we rely on X. Finally, a subset of our theories will be based on pure reason: “Based on our collective knowledge and experience, this is the best approach for this problem.” Figure 1 is a summary of my own theory for creating high performing partners.

Figure 1. Elements Need to Create a High Performing Partner

Fig1Model

In narrative form, I am saying that the creation of high-performing partners is influenced by five factors: (1) aptitude, also known as cognitive ability; (2) motivation, which is primarily a function of values alignment between the lawyer and the substance of his or her work; (3) the type and quality of work experience that a lawyer receives during his or her early career; (4) the quality, quantity, and timeliness of training and feedback; and (5) the presence and quality of a mentoring or coaching relationship.

The model can also be broken down into selection and development components. A law firm optimizes elements (1) and (2) through a process of accurate selection at the point of hiring. The less accurate the selection, the higher the lawyer attrition due to poor fit for aptitude and motivation. A firm can optimize (3), (4), and (5) by designing and implementing systems for professional development. The better the design and execution of the interconnected systems, the faster and higher the lawyer’s growth trajectory.

What is the relative importance of these factors? This is a good question that no one can answer with any degree of precision, primarily because we are in the early days of applied research within the legal profession and the required data has not yet been collected and analyzed. The best we can do is to start with a theory that is consistent with the data we do have and continuously improve our knowledge through measurement.

It has been my experience, however, that lawyers often have strong opinions on what does and doesn’t matter. These views on lawyer selection and development essentially create a series of default settings based on conventional wisdom and past practice. I have enough knowledge of the social science literature and enough experience doing sophisticated applied research in law firms to conclude that many of these default settings are wrong.

Below is a summary of what I know about each of the five components in my five-factor model. One by one, and cumulatively, these model components provide me with optimism that law firm diversity can be dramatically improved, particularly at the partnership level.


Interested readers can download the full article from SSRN.  

March 13, 2016 in Data on the profession, Important research, Innovations in law, Law Firms, Scholarship on the legal profession | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 11, 2016

Conditional Scholarships Reprise – Of Sticks and Carrots and Asking Questions

A few years ago the Council for the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar mandated greater transparency regarding conditional scholarships, requiring law schools that offer conditional scholarships to publicize on their webpages, and to applicants receiving conditional scholarship offers, the number of conditional scholarships awarded to students and the number that had been reduced or eliminated over each of the prior three academic years.

Applicants previously had not been aware of how many students were getting conditional scholarships and didn’t know how likely they were to keep the conditional scholarships given the law school’s grading curve. They were generally unduly optimistic about their likelihood of retaining a scholarship. The mandated disclosure was designed to ameliorate this information asymmetry and optimism bias.

I have written about conditional scholarships on several occasions over the last several years, initially noting the need for greater transparency and then analyzing the data on conditional scholarships once its publication was mandated. I posted the most recent summary in December 2015, covering the 2014-15 academic year and comparing it with the 2011-12 academic year. Notably, over the last few years, while more than two dozen law schools have shifted away from using conditional scholarships, the percentage of first-year students with conditional scholarships remained at roughly 27%, although slightly fewer first-year students saw their scholarships reduced or eliminated (7.8% down from 9.4%).

With tuition deposits due in the next several weeks, prospective law students likely are comparing the varied opportunities they may have in terms of law schools and scholarship offers.  I write at this time to highlight the need for applicants receiving conditional scholarship offers to ask questions of admissions officials regarding conditional scholarships at their law schools, both with respect to traditional conditional scholarships and with respect to a new type of conditional scholarship that apparently is being offered by at least one law school and perhaps others. Prospective students need to be proactive in combatting their own propensity for optimism bias. Pre-law advisors need to help students be more proactive in combatting their propensity for optimism bias.

The Need to Ask Questions with Respect to Traditional Conditional Scholarships that Function as a Stick

Traditional conditional scholarships operate as a “stick.” If a student doesn’t maintain a defined GPA or class rank, the student’s scholarship is reduced or eliminated.

Law schools are required to publish, and to provide to conditional scholarship recipients, the number of conditional scholarship recipients and the number whose scholarships were reduced or eliminated in each of the prior three years. This is helpful generally, but it doesn’t necessarily help specific applicants all that much.

For example, assume a law school’s published data indicates that 80 students received conditional scholarships in each of the prior three years and that 20 students saw their scholarships reduced or eliminated each year. At first blush, this makes it look like the average conditional scholarship recipient has a 75% (60/80) chance of retaining her scholarship. But who is the average conditional scholarship recipient? Assuming all students had to meet the same “condition” – perhaps maintain a first-year GPA of 3.0 -- it is likely that conditional scholarship recipients in the top quarter of the LSAT/GPA distribution for entering students at the law school had perhaps a 90-95% likelihood of retaining their scholarship, while conditional scholarship recipients near the middle or below the middle of the LSAT/GPA distribution for entering students at the law school had perhaps a 50-60% likelihood of retaining their scholarship.

Recognizing this likely disparity, conditional scholarship recipients should be asking the admissions officials at the law schools from which they are receiving conditional scholarship offers what additional information the admissions officials can provide about the extent to which a student with a comparable profile and comparable condition was likely to see his conditional scholarship reduced or eliminated. Were those at the top end of the LSAT/GPA distribution more likely to retain their conditional scholarship? Were those further down the LSAT/GPA distribution less likely to retain their conditional scholarships? How did the nature of the condition impact the likelihood that a student with a given profile retained her scholarship?

Law schools should have this information available and should be willing to provide answers to these questions.  Prospective students need answers to these questions to be best positioned to calculate the expected value of a conditional scholarship over three years so that the student can make meaningful cost-comparisons across law schools.

The Need to Ask Questions with Respect to New Conditional Scholarships that Function as a Stick and a Carrot

At least one law school, and possibly others, have what appears to be a new type of “conditional” scholarship, which can best be described as a both a “stick” and a “carrot.” In addition to reducing or eliminating a student’s conditional scholarship if the student fails to maintain a given GPA or class rank, the “carrot” approach to the conditional scholarship offers students AN INCREASED SCHOLARSHIP if the student obtains a given GPA or class rank.

For example, assume a given law school has the same published information as in the previous example – 80 students received conditional scholarships and 20 students had their scholarships reduced or eliminated.

An applicant receives a conditional scholarship for 50% tuition and is informed that the scholarship will be eliminated if she fails to maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.5 at the end of the first year. But she also is informed that the scholarship will increase to 75% if she obtains a GPA of 3.5 and to 100% if she obtains a GPA of 3.7.

This student needs to ask several questions of the admissions officials at the law school. First, she needs to ask whether, given her LSAT/GPA profile, and her renewal threshold (2.5 GPA), she has the average likelihood of maintaining her scholarship (75%) or perhaps a higher or lower likelihood of maintaining her scholarship. (If the school offers 100% scholarships with a renewal condition of 3.5 and a 75% scholarship with a renewal condition of 3.0 and a 50% scholarship with a renewal condition of 2.5, it may be that the people with 50% scholarships have a higher likelihood of retaining their scholarships then those with larger scholarships but correspondingly higher conditions.)

Second, however, the student also needs to ask how many students in the previous two or three years who came into school with an LSAT/GPA profile comparable to hers managed to get a 3.5 GPA or a 3.7 GPA. For a prospective student with an LSAT/GPA in the bottom half of the entering class LSAT/GPA distribution, it well may be that few, if any, comparable students managed to get a 3.5 GPA or a 3.7 GPA at the end of the first year.

New Creative Efforts to Play on Optimism Bias of Applicants

This “carrot” approach to conditional scholarships is simply the newest technique for taking advantage of the optimism bias of prospective students. The Standard 509 disclosure obligations do not capture this type of conditional scholarship. Thus, law schools do not have an affirmative obligation to disclose the extent to which students in various ranges across the LSAT/GPA distribution of an entering class are likely to obtain a GPA of 3.5 or 3.7 at the end of the first-year.

Indeed, this “carrot” approach could be used by any law school – even law schools that do not generally offer conditional scholarships that trigger a reporting obligation. Such a law school could offer a slightly smaller unconditional scholarship on the front end along with the “carrot” condition – the prospect of a scholarship increase if certain GPA performance thresholds are met -- and perhaps entice students who optimistically believe they are going to outperform their LSAT/GPA profile to accept the law school’s scholarship offer rather than a comparable scholarship offer from another law school that did not offer a “carrot.”

Of course, this “carrot” approach to conditional scholarships presents another information asymmetry problem and optimism bias problem. The law school would know how few students meet the GPA threshold for an increased scholarship while the prospective students would optimistically, but unrealistically, believe they are capable of meeting the threshold.

But the fact that law schools do not have an affirmative obligation to disclose the likelihood of success in meeting the GPA threshold for the enhanced scholarship award does not mean that prospective students can’t ask for very specific information about the number of students with comparable LSAT/GPA profiles who actually obtained the GPA thresholds over the prior three years. Once again, law schools should have this information available and should be willing to disclose the information.

In any of these situations, if a prospective student asks for specific information about the scholarship retention or scholarship enhancement prospects of similarly-situated students in the three prior years and a law school claims not to have the information or is not willing to share the information, this should prompt suspicion on the part of the prospective student. Law schools have this information (or should have it) and should provide answers to these questions when asked.

March 11, 2016 in Data on legal education, Innovations in legal education, Scholarship on legal education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

BU Conference on New ABA Standard for Legal Education Outcomes, April 2

Unknown-2The Boston University School of Law and the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning are co-sponsoring a conference on "Responding to the New ABA Standards: Best Practices in Outcomes Assessments," to be held Saturday, April 2, 2016, at the BU Law School.

The featured speaker will be Bill Adams, the Deputy Managing Director of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. 

More information, including a link to the registration process, available at the conference website.

March 9, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Comments on Proposed Revisions to Standard 501

Standard 501 requires law schools to have sound admissions policies and to refrain from admitting applicants who are not capable of being successful in law school and on the bar exam. For many years, Standard 501 has received little attention, while Standard 316 – the bar passage standard – has received more attention. Accreditors focused more on outcomes – bar passage results – than inputs – the academic abilities of students admitted to law school. With the decline in the number of applicants to law school and the corresponding erosion of entering class credentials at many law schools, however, Standard 501 has begun to receive more attention.

Specifically, due to concerns that some law schools might be admitting students whose entering credentials suggest that they are not likely to be successful in law school or be able to pass the bar exam, the Standards Review Committee (“SRC”) of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar (“Section”) has proposed revisions to Standard 501. The Council for the Section will consider these proposed revisions at its upcoming March meeting.  

I am in favor of most of the suggested revisions to Standard 501 (as discussed below). I am not in favor of the SRC’s Proposal 2 which proposes an “attrition” threshold above which schools would face heightened attention. In a subsequent post, I will discuss the need for a more robust Standard 308, which addresses academic standards, as a corollary to Standard 501.

“Proposal 2” Presents Two Problems

In its Proposal 2, the SRC suggests adding a new Interpretation 501-3 – “A law school having a non-transfer attrition rate above ___ percent bears the burden of demonstrating that it is in compliance with the Standard.” (The SRC anticipated that the Council would insert a number, perhaps 10%, in place of the blank.) Proposal 2 presents two problems; it is too broad in scope, and it is unlikely to be effective in practice.

The proposed interpretation focuses on “non-transfer” attrition, when it should be focused solely on “academic attrition.”

Non-transfer attrition consists of two components – “academic attrition” and “other attrition.”

Academic attrition includes students involuntarily dismissed under a law school’s academic policies or students who leave voluntarily but would have been dismissed had they remained in school. As noted in my recent blog posting analyzing attrition data, academic attrition varies widely across law schools from zero to over 20%, particularly among law schools with relatively low LSAT/GPA profiles.

Other attrition includes students who leave law school for reasons other than academic attrition. They may have decided law school is not for them, or have had a family emergency or their own physical health concern or mental health concern that leads them to withdraw from law school. Other attrition has much less variability; at most law schools other attrition is in the 2% to 4% range.

Law schools should be able to look at historical trends regarding student performance at their law school to predict whether applicants with certain entering class credentials are likely to experience “academic attrition.” Thus, a high “academic attrition” rate may suggest a law school is admitting too many students who are unlikely to be successful. By contrast, law schools rarely are going to be able to identify in advance those students who are likely to fall into the “other attrition” category.

Accordingly, if Proposal 2 is going to move forward, I would strongly advise that it focus solely on “academic attrition” rather than on all non-transfer attrition.

(It is conceivable that the SRC chose non-transfer attrition rather than academic attrition because it was concerned law schools would opt to classify a student’s attrition as other attrition rather than academic attrition to avoid whatever threshold might be set for academic attrition. While that risk could be addressed through careful assessment of attrition data, if there is a strong desire to use non-transfer attrition, I would suggest that the non-transfer attrition threshold be set at a slightly higher percentage to recognize that many law schools regularly experience other attrition of between 2% and 4%.)

The proposed interpretation is unlikely to accomplish its intended purpose

Regardless of whether the threshold focuses solely on academic attrition or on non-transfer attrition, however, this proposed interpretation fails to account for how law schools are likely to respond to the new interpretation. The SRC may believe the proposed interpretation will make law schools refrain from admitting as many at risk students. While that is possible, it is actually as likely or more likely that some law schools will not change their admissions practices, but simply will adjust how they implement their academic dismissal policies or grading policies to keep academic attrition or non-transfer attrition below whatever threshold is established.

For example, assume the proposed interpretation set 10% as the academic attrition “threshold” for shifting to law schools the burden of demonstrating compliance with the Standard. In the 2014-15 academic year, an academic attrition threshold of 10% would have “caught” 30 law schools. One easily can imagine that a significant number of those law schools likely would simply adjust their academic dismissal policies or their grading policies so that they maintain academic attrition below the 10% threshold (even at the risk of noncompliance with the bar passage standard a few years later). (Indeed, 11 of the 30 law schools in 2014-15 with academic attrition more than 10% have an academic attrition rate between 10% and 11%, such that getting under 10% would not have been very difficult for these law schools.)

The SRC may be assuming that law schools don’t have “control” of how academic attrition actually functions. Perhaps the SRC believes that academic dismissal policies are fairly consistent across all law schools such that a given threshold (10%) would have comparable meaning and effect across all law schools. As noted above, however, academic attrition varies widely among similarly situated law schools, particularly those with relatively low LSAT/GPA profiles. This suggests that academic dismissal and grading policies differ across law schools or, phrased differently, that the way in which grading policies interact with academic dismissal policies varies widely. In reality, law schools have sufficient “local control” over their grading and academic dismissal policies that it would not be that difficult for law schools to avoid being “caught” by whatever academic attrition or non-transfer attrition threshold would get established in Standard 501.

The Other Three Suggested Revisions to Standard 501 are Generally Good Ideas

First, in Section 501(a), the SRC wants to replace “maintain” with “adopt, publish, and adhere to such that the standard will read: “A law school shall adopt, publish, and adhere to sound admission policies and practices consistent with the Standards, its mission, and the objectives of its program of legal education.” This clarifies that law schools have to have policies, have to publish policies, and have to adhere to the policies, all good things.

Second, in Section 501(b), the SRC wants to shift from a negative framework to a positive framework. The existing standard has a negative framework -- “A law school shall not admit an applicant who does not appear capable of satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar.”   The SRC recommends shifting to a positive framework – “A law school shall admit only applicants who appear capable of satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar.” (emphasis added) While I don’t feel strongly about this, I think it is easier to conceptualize this in the positive framework – focused on who should be admitted -- rather than on who should not be admitted. That said, it might help to maintain a singular focus on each “applicant” rather than shifting to the plural “applicants.” “A law school shall admit an applicant only if the applicant appears capable of satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar.” This keeps the focus on each individual applicant rather than the pool of applicants a law school admits.

Third, in the first interpretation – Interpretation 501-1 -- the SRC recommends adding a sentence that states: “Compliance with Standard 316 is not alone sufficient to comply with the Standard.” Standard 316 is the bar passage standard. This suggested revision is designed to highlight that Standard 501 is an independent standard that is not just derivative of Standard 316. This also strikes me as a useful change.

If Standard 501 is simply derivative of Standard 316, then there is no way to assess compliance with Standard 501 in “real time.” Rather, one would only assess compliance with Standard 501 by waiting three or four years to see whether the graduates of the law school comply with the bar passage standard. Standard 501 would be somewhat superfluous.

By adding this sentence, the SRC is suggesting that compliance with Standard 501 should be assessed “presently” by looking at the LSAT/GPA profile of matriculants, the law school’s experience with attrition, and the success of the law school’s academic support program, along with the law school’s historical bar passage results. Historical attrition and historical results on the bar exam in relation to prior graduates’ entering LSAT/GPA profile and prior graduates’ law school academic performance should inform the determination of whether the law school is continuing to admit only those applicants reasonably capable of being successful in the program of legal education and in passing the bar exam. If students with certain LSAT/GPA profiles over a three-year or four-year period consistently have performed poorly in law school and experienced academic attrition, or performed poorly on the bar exam, then the law school has data that would make it challenging for the law school to demonstrate that applicants with those profiles are “capable of satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar.”

(I am very grateful for the helpful comments of Debby Merritt and Scott Norberg on earlier drafts of this blog posting.)

March 8, 2016 in Current events, Data on legal education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Updated Analysis of Attrition through the 2014-15 Academic Year

In October 2015, I posted a blog discussing attrition rates between 2010 and 2014. With the release of the Standard 509 reports in December, I now have compiled attrition data from all of the fully-accredited ABA law schools outside of Puerto Rico for the last five full academic years. I have calculated average attrition rates for the class as a whole and then broken out average attrition rates by law schools in different median LSAT categories – 160+, 155-159, 150-154 and <150.

In a nutshell, overall first-year attrition has increased each of the last four years, going from 5.81% to 7.04% over that period. This overall increase, however, results largely from increases in overall attrition among schools with median LSATs less than 150, as the overall attrition rates for law schools with medians LSATs of 150 or greater have generally decreased over this period. “Academic attrition” rates increase significantly as median LSAT decreases, while “other attrition” presents more of a mixed record.

Average Overall First-Year Attrition Rates Continue to Increase

In calculating attrition rates, I wanted to capture those students who are no longer in law school anywhere. Thus, for these purposes, “attrition” is the sum of “academic attrition” and “other attrition.” “Academic attrition” occurs when a law school asks someone to leave because of inadequate academic performance. As of the 2014-15 academic year, “academic attrition” also includes a student who left voluntarily but who would have been asked to leave because of academic performance had the student not left voluntarily. “Other attrition” occurs when a student departs from the law school volitionally without being at risk of academic dismissal. Both of these categories exclude “transfers.”

The following chart shows that despite the declining “LSAT profile” of the entering classes between 2010 and 2014, there had not been any meaningful change in the average “academic attrition” rate for first-year students through the 2013-14 academic year, but that academic attrition increased modestly in 2014-15 to over 4%. Some portion of this increase in academic attrition might be attributable to the continued decline in LSAT profile of the entering class of students in 2014. Given that there was a corresponding decline in “other attrition” (for the first time in the four-year period assessed), however, at least some portion of the increase in “academic attrition” would appear to be attributable to the redefinition of “academic attrition” described in the preceding paragraph, Roughly 80% of the increase in overall first-year attrition over this period from 5.81% to 7.04%, is due to a growth in the “academic attrition” category from 3.32% to 4.15%.

Overall First-Year Attrition for Classes Entering in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014

 

Beg. Enrollment

Academic Attrition

% Academic

Other Attrition

% Other

Total Attrition

% Attrition

2010-11

50408

1673

3.32

1256

2.49

2929

5.81%

2011-12

46477

1551

3.34

1262

2.72

2813

6.06%

2012-13

42399

1461

3.45

1186

2.8

2647

6.25%

2013-14

38837

1316

3.39

1236

3.18

2552

6.57%

2014-15

37086

1539

4.15

1072

2.89

2611

7.04%

(Calculating attrition rates for 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13, is a little more complicated than one might think. For ABA reporting years of 2011, 2012, and 2013, “academic attrition” was reported separately, but “other attrition” included “transfers out.” Thus, to generate the real “other attrition” number, one needed to “subtract” from “other attrition” the numbers associated with “transfers out.” Because some schools occasionally listed transfers out in “second year” “other attrition,” this analysis should be understood to have a little fuzziness to it for years 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13. For ABA reporting years 2014 and 2015, transfers out were not commingled with “other attrition,” so the calculations were based solely on the sum of “academic attrition” and “other attrition.”)

Academic Attrition Rates Increase as Law School Median LSAT Decreases

Notably, there are different rates of attrition across law schools in different LSAT categories. The following chart breaks down attrition by groups of law schools based on median LSAT for the law school for the entering class each year. For each year, the chart shows the average first-year attrition rates for law schools with median LSATs of 160 or higher, for law schools with median LSATs of 155-159, for law schools with median LSATs of 150-154 and for law schools with median LSATs less than 150. In addition, it breaks out “academic attrition” and “other attrition” as separate categories for each category of law school and for each year and then provides the total overall attrition rate each year along with the five-year average total overall attrition rate.

Average Attrition Rates by Category of Schools Based on Median LSAT

 

2010-11

2011-12

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

 

Median LSAT

Acad

Oth

Total

Acad

Oth

Total

Acad

Oth

Total

Acad

Oth

Total

Acad

Oth

Total

Five-Year Avg.

160+

0.6

1.7

2.3

0.6

1.9

2.5

0.4

2.0

2.4

0.3

1.5

1.8

0.3

1.3

1.6

2.1

155-159

2.9

2.6

5.5

2.2

2.8

5.1

2.1

2.9

5.1

1.7

3.2

4.9

2.0

2.6

4.6

5.0

150-154

6.3

3.8

10.1

6.2

3.4

9.6

6.0

3.7

9.7

4.2

4.3

8.5

4.7

4.0

8.7

9.3

<150

10.1

2.4

12.5

9.4

3.8

13.2

9.1

3.0

12.2

9.7

4.7

14.4

12.7

4.4

17.1

13.9

When looking at this data, some things are worth noting.

Attrition Rates Increase as Median LSAT Decreases

As one moves from law schools in the highest LSAT category to the lowest LSAT category, overall attrition increases, going from an average over the five years of 2.1%, to 5.0%, to 9.3%, to 13.9%. “Academic attrition” consistently increases as median LSAT decreases, while “other attrition” increased as median LSAT decreased in only three of the five years.

Although this analysis is focused on four LSAT categories, the trend of having academic attrition increase as median LSAT decreases continues if you add a fifth LSAT category. In 2010-11 there was only one law school with a median LSAT of 145 or less, with only 320 students. By 2014-15, however, there were 12 law schools with a median LSAT of 145 or less, with 2,826 students. The average academic attrition rate at these 12 schools in 2014-15 was 15.6 percent. The academic attrition rate at the other 24 law schools with a median LSAT less than 150 but more than 145 was 10.1 percent.

The Top Three Categories of Law Schools Saw Decreases in Academic Attrition Over Time

Over the period from 2010-11 to 2014-15, “academic attrition” generally appears to be flat to decreasing for schools with median LSATs of 160+. For schools with median LSATs of 155-159 and 150-154, “academic attrition” generally had declined from 2010-11 to 2013-14, but increased slightly in 2014-15 (although still well below levels in 2010-11). The only category in which academic attrition in 2014-15 exceeded academic attrition in 2010-11, was for law schools with median LSATs <150, where the academic attrition rate increased from 10.1% to 12.7%.

 
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By contrast, “other attrition” presents more of a mixed record over time, but decreased in 2014-15 across all LSAT categories (perhaps because of the redefinition of “academic attrition” discussed above).

 
 
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[If you are wondering why the average overall attrition rate has increased while the overall attrition rates for the top three LSAT categories have decreased, the answer is because of the changing number of students in each category over time. The number of students and percentage of students in the top LSAT category has declined significantly, while the number of students and percentage of students in the bottom LSAT category has increased significantly. This results in the average overall attrition rate increasing even as rates in various categories are decreasing.]

Increasing Variability in Attrition Rates

While it may make sense that “academic attrition” increases as law school median LSAT decreases, when one looks at the data within each LSAT category, there is a surprising range of academic attrition rates across law schools, with variability increasing significantly as median LSAT scores decrease. There was much less variability with respect to “other attrition.”

There were 50 law schools with median LSATs of 160+ in 2014-15, of which 37 (roughly 75%) had an academic attrition rate of 0, while the other 13 had academic attrition rates less than 5% with only four having academic attrition rates of 1% or more, topping out at 3.7%.

There also were 50 law schools with median LSATs of 155-159 in 2014-15, of which 11 had an academic attrition rate of 0 (roughly 22%), while 32 of these law schools had academic attrition rates of less than 5%, and seven had academic attrition rates of more than 5%, topping out at 8.6%.

There were 59 law schools with median LSATs of 150-154 in 2014-15, of which 10 had an academic attrition rate of 0 (roughly 17%), while 28 of these law schools had an academic attrition rate of less than 5%, 12 had an academic attrition rate of 5% to 10%, eight had an academic attrition rate of 10% to 15%, and one had an academic attrition rate in excess of 15% (17.9%).

Finally, there were 36 law schools with a median LSAT <150 in 2014-15, of which none had an academic attrition rate of 0, while seven had academic attrition rates less than 5%, 13 had an academic attrition rates of 5% to 10%, four had an academic attrition rate of 10% to 15% and nine had an academic attrition rate of 15% or more of which five were over 20%, with one at 33%.

 
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This phenomenon of increasing variability in attrition rates may merit further attention. For law schools with a similar 50th percentile LSAT and 25th percentile LSAT for their entering classes, what can explain a range of academic attrition from 2% to 20%. Does one school have a much higher standard for academic good standing and dismissal? Does one school have a much more robust academic support program? Have the professors at one school failed to adjust their grading to reflect a significantly different entering class profile among their students?

How does this varied approach to academic attrition ultimately impact bar passage results? If we have two law schools with comparable entering class profiles in states with comparable cut scores and bar passage percentages, does the law school with a higher rate of academic attrition show a higher bar passage rate when compared to the law school with a much lower rate of academic attrition? (I hope to explore this question in a subsequent blog posting.)

Unanswered Questions

The publicly-reported attrition data does not provide any information regarding the gender or ethnicity or socio-economic background of students leaving law school. Therefore, we don’t know whether there are different rates of attrition for women as compared with men or whether students of different ethnic backgrounds have different rates of attrition. We also don’t know whether first-generation law students experience attrition at different rates than other law students, or whether students of lower socio-economic status experience attrition at different rates than students of higher socio-economic status. Similarly, at law schools with part-time programs, we don’t know whether part-time students and full-time students experience attrition at comparable rates.

We also do not know for sure who is experiencing attrition within a given law school. The data presented here would suggest that students on the lower end of the distribution of a law school’s entering class profile are more likely to experience academic attrition than students on the higher end of the distribution, but presently that is not easily verified.

Further Thoughts

This is an appropriate time to pay closer attention to attrition data. The Standards Review Committee recently revisited Standard 501 and suggested to the Council that attrition rates might be used to inform the appropriateness of a law school’s admission policies. I hope to discuss the Standard Review Committee’s proposal at greater length in a subsequent blog posting. Given that the Standards Review Committee also recommended changes to Standard 316, the bar passage standard, trying to develop a better understanding of the relationship between academic attrition and bar passage (discussed above) also makes sense.

(I am grateful to Bernie Burk and Debby Merritt for comments on a earlier draft of this blog posting.)

February 27, 2016 in Data on legal education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Legal Artificial Intelligence: Replacing or Helping Lawyers?

Logo-clioThis Tuesday at 11 am PT /2 pm ET, Clio, a leading cloud-based practice management company, will be offering a provocative webinar on  Legal Artificial Intelligence.  The legal media has hyped this issue with the help of some lawyers with little firsthand knowledge of the topic.  This program, however, has true experts, including ROSS Intelligence co-founders Andrew Arruda and Jimoh Ovbiagele along with Clio's Lawyer in Residence, Joshua Lenon.  The program is also CLE-eligible in at least some jurisdictions. 

The following questions will be covered:

  • What is classified as artificial intelligence (AI)?
  • How legal professionals can use AI?
  • What legal AI tools are in development?
  • How lawyers can get started with AI?

You can register online at: https://landing.goclio.com/legal-artificial-intelligence.html

February 21, 2016 in Current events, Innovations in law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 18, 2016

Changes in Composition of the LSAT Profiles of Matriculants and Law Schools Between 2010 and 2015

In late December 2014, I posted a blog analyzing how the distribution of matriculants across LSAT categories had changed since 2010 based on the LSAC’s National Decision Profiles and on law school 50th percentile LSATs and 25th percentile LSATs across ranges of LSAT scores. With the LSAC’s recent release of the 2014-15 National Decision Profile and the ABA’s recent release of Standard 509 data, I am posting this blog to provide an update with the 2015 data.

At one level, this is a story that has already become well understood over the last year since my blog posting, with much discussion of the relationship between declining LSAT profiles and declining median MBE scores and bar passage rates. This 2015 information indicates that the decline in the LSAT profiles of matriculants and of law schools has continued, although with some moderation.

Given that the LSAT profiles of matriculants and of law schools for fall 2013, fall 2014 and fall 2015 are less robust than those for fall 2011 and fall 2012 (the classes that graduated in 2014 and 2015, respectively), one can anticipate that the declines in median MBE scaled scores and corresponding bar passage rates in 2014 and 2015 will continue in July 2016, 2017 and 2018 absent increases in attrition (I discussed attrition rates in a blog posting in October), significant improvement in academic support programs at law schools, or improved bar preparation efforts on the part of graduates.

Tracking Changes Based on LSAC’s National Decision Profiles – 2010-2015

The following discussion summarizes data in the LSAC’s National Decision Profiles from the 2009-10 admission cycle (fall 2010) through the 2014-15 admission cycle (fall 2015).

Let’s start with the big picture. If you take the matriculants each year and break them into three broad LSAT categories – 160+, 150-159, and <150 – the following chart and graph show the changes in percentages of matriculants in each of these categories over the last six years.

Change in Percentage of Matriculants in LSAT Categories – 2010-2015

 

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

<150

14.2

15.7

19.3

22.5

23

23.8

150-159

45

45.3

44.3

44.1

43.6

44.2

 160+

 40.8

39 

 36.3

 33.4

 33.5

 32

Change in Percentage of Matriculants in LSAT Categories – 2010-2015 (Visual) 
Thumbnail

Notably, this chart and graph show almost no change in the “middle"" -- 150-159 – (blue – dropping from 45% to 44.2%), with most of the change at 160+ (green -- decreasing from 40.8% to 32%) and at <150 (red -- increasing from 14.2% to 23.8%). This chart and graph also show some stabilization between 2013 and 2014, followed by a modest decline in 2015 in the percentage of students with LSATs of 160+ and a modest increase in the percentage of students with LSATs of <150.

While I think this tells the story pretty clearly, for those interested in more detail, the following charts provide a more granular analysis.

Changes in LSAT Distributions of Matriculants – 2010-2013       

 

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

Change in #

% Change in #

170+

3635

3330

2788

2072

2248

2022

(1613)

-44.4%

165-169

5842

5622

4783

4082

3941

3483

(2359)

-40.4%

 

160-164

10666

8678

7281

6442

6010

5743

(3923)

-36.8%

 

155-159

11570

10657

9700

8459

7935

7780

(3790)

-32.8%

 

150-154

10626

9885

8444

8163

7934

7805

(1821)

-17.1%

 

145-149

5131

5196

5334

5541

5158

5274

143

2.8%

 

<145

1869

1888

2564

2930

3203

3084

1215

65%

 

49339

45256

40894

37689

36429

35191

   
                       

Note that in terms of the percentage change in the number of matriculants in each LSAT category, the four highest LSAT categories are all down at least 30% since 2010, with 165-169 and 170+ down over 40%, while the two lowest LSAT categories are up, with <145 being up over 60%. 
  Thumbnail

Note that in the line graph above, the top two LSAT categories have been combined into 165+ while the bottom two LSAT categories have been combined into <150. Perhaps most significantly, in 2010, the <150 group, with 7,000 students, was over 2,400 students smaller than the next smallest category (165+ with 9,477) and more than 4,500 students smaller than the largest category (155-159 with 11,570). By 2015, however, the <150 category had become the largest category, with 8,358, more than 500 larger than the second category (150-154, with 7,805) and more than 2,800 larger than the smallest category, 165+ with only 5,505. Moreover, 88% of the growth in the <150 category was in the <145 category (1,215 of the 1,358 more people in the <150 category were in the <145 category).

Changes in Percentage of Matriculants in LSAT Ranges – 2010-2015

 

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

% Chg in %

>169

7.4

7.4

6.8

5.5

6.2

5.7

-23%

165-169

11.8

12.4

11.7

10.8

10.8

9.9

-16.1%

160-164

21.6

19.2

17.8

17.1

16.5

16.3

-24.5%

155-159

23.5

23.5

23.7

22.4

21.8

22.1

-6%

150-154

21.5

21.8

20.6

21.7

21.8

22.2

3.2%

145-149

10.4

11.5

13

14.7

14.2

15

44.2%

<145

3.8

4.2

6.3

7.8

8.8

8.8

132%

In terms of the “composition” of the class, i.e., the percentage of matriculants in each LSAT category, we see significant declines of 20% or more at 160-164 and 170+ and significant increases of 40% at 145-149 and over 100% at <145.

Tracking Changes in Law Schools by Looking at the Distribution of 50th Percentile LSAT Scores Across Six LSAT Categories

Obviously, this change in the composition of the entering class has resulted in corresponding changes in the LSAT profiles of law schools. Based on the data law schools reported in their Standard 509 Reports from 2010 to 2015, the chart below lists the numbers of law schools reporting a 50th percentile LSAT within certain LSAT ranges. (This chart excludes law schools in Puerto Rico and provisionally-approved law schools.)

Number of Law Schools with a 50th Percentile LSAT in Six LSAT Categories – 2010-2015

 

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

165+

30

31

26

23

21

21

160-164

47

41

39

31

29

28

155-159

59

57

56

53

51

48

150-154

50

52

53

56

59

59

145-149

9

14

22

28

29

33

<145

0

1

0

5

7

7

Total

195

196

196

196

196

196

The table above pretty clearly demonstrates the changes that have taken place since 2010, with declines in the number of law schools with a 50th percentile LSAT in higher LSAT categories and increases in the number of law schools with a 50th percentile LSAT in the lower LSAT categories, although 2015 saw only modest changes from 2014 at 160-164 (down 1), at 155-159 (down 3) and at 145-149 (up 4). 

  Thumbnail

As shown in the chart above, the number of law schools with a 50th percentile LSAT of 155 or higher has declined from 136 to 97. By contrast, the number of law schools with a 50th percentile LSAT of 154 or lower has increased from 59 to 99. In 2010, therefore, there were more than twice as many law schools with a 50th percentile LSAT of 155 or higher as compared with the number with a 50th percentile LSAT of 154 or lower (136 and 59, respectively), but as of 2015, those numbers were nearly identical (97 and 99, respectively).

The “mode” in 2010 was in the 155-159 category, with nearly 60 law schools, but by 2014, the “mode” had shifted to the 150-154 category with nearly 60 law schools.

Perhaps most pronounced is the shift in the upper and lower ranges. As shown in the chart below, the number of law schools with a 50th percentile LSAT of 160 or higher has dropped by more than one-third, from 77 to 49, while the number of law schools with a 50th percentile LSAT of 149 or lower has more than quadrupled from 9 to 40. In 2010, there were only three law schools with a 50th percentile LSAT of 145 or 146; as of 2015, there were 15 law schools with a 50th percentile LSAT of 146 or lower, of which five were at 143 or lower, with the two lowest being 142 and 141.
  Thumbnail

   
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Tracking Changes in Law Schools by Looking at the Distribution of 25th Percentile LSAT Scores Across Six LSAT Categories

For those who want to focus on the bottom 25th percentile of LSAT profile among law schools, the table below shows changes in distribution of the bottom 25th percentile LSAT among law schools across six LSAT categories between 2010 and 2015.

Number of Law Schools with a 25th Percentile LSAT in Six LSAT Categories – 2010-2015

 

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

165+

17

16

11

10

10

7

160-164

26

20

21

17

15

17

155-159

55

54

49

42

41

38

150-154

67

69

59

65

57

59

145-149

26

33

46

48

48

52

<145

4

4

10

14

25

23

Total

195

196

196

196

196

196

With respect to changes between 2014 and 2015, this table shows a little more variability, with decreases in three categories -- 165+ (down 3l 155-159 (down 3) and less than 145 (down 2) -- and with increases in three categories -- 160-164 (up 2), 150-154 (up 2), and 145-149 (up 4).

Looking at changes between 2010 and 2015, note that the four top categories have all declined, while the number of law schools with a 25th percentile LSAT of 145-149 has doubled and the number of law schools with a 25th percentile LSAT of <145 has more than quintupled from four in 2010 (two at 144 and two at 143), to 23 in 2015, with 13 of them at 142 and below.

  Thumbnail

As shown in the chart below, in 2010, the number of law schools with a 25th percentile LSAT of 155 or higher and the number with a 25th percentile LSATs of 154 or lower were nearly identical (98 and 97, respectively). As of 2015, however, there were more than twice as many law schools with a 25th percentile LSAT of 154 or lower when compared with those with a 25th percentile LSAT of 155 or higher (134 and 62, respectively).
  Thumbnail

Moreover, between 2010 and 2015, the number of law schools with a 25th percentile LSAT of 160 or higher has fallen more than 40% from 43 to 24, while the number with a 25th percentile LSAT of 149 or lower has more than doubled from 30 to 75. 

 
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Changes in Average 75th, 50th and 25th Percentile LSATs Across Fully-Accredited ABA Law Schools

One other way of looking at this is just to see how the average first-year LSAT and UGPA profiles have changed over the last six years.

Average LSATs of Matriculants at Fully-Accredited ABA Law Schools

 

75th Percentile

50th Percentile

25th Percentile

2010

160.5

158.1

155.2

2011

160.1

157.8

154.5

2012

159.6

157

153.6

2013

158.7

156

152.6

2014

158.2

155.4

151.8

2015

157.9

155.3

151.8

Overall Drop

-2.6

-2.8

-3.4

(Note that these are not weighted averages based on the number of matriculants at each school, but are simply averages across law schools.)

Notably, over this same period of time the average UGPAs have fallen modestly as well from a 75th/50th/25th profile of 3.63 – 3.41 – 3.14 in 2010 to 3.6 – 3.37 – 3.09 in 2015.

Conclusion

If one focuses on the LSAT scores and UGPAs as measures of “quality” of the entering class of law students each year, then the period from 2010-2015 not only has seen a significant decline in enrollment, it also has seen a significant decline in “quality.”

The LSAC’s most recent Current Volume Report (January 8, 2016) suggests that the pool of applicants to law schools is rebounding slightly in this current cycle. With 22,662 applicants at a point in the cycle at which 40% of applicants had been received last year, one can project an applicant pool of roughly 56,600. The “quality” of applicants also appears to be stronger, with double digit percentage increases in applicants to date in LSAT categories of 165 and higher. If these trends continue in the applicant pool for the current cycle, then the fall 2015 entering class may represent the “bottom” both in terms of the number of matriculants and in terms of the “quality” of the matriculants as measured by LSAT and UGPA. Of course, we won’t know for sure about that until next December when the 2016 Standard 509 Reports are published.

(I am grateful for the helpful comments of Scott Norberg on an earlier draft of this blog.)

January 18, 2016 in Data on legal education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Building the Legal Startup

If I were in northern California tomorrow evening, I would be headed to Stanford Law to attend this interesting program:

CodexBuilding the Legal Start-up

January 12 @ 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm 
5:00 – 9:00pm
Room 290, Stanford Law School

The event is sponsored by CodeX – The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics and Evolve Law.  Some very accomplished start-up folks are participating, including Eddie Hartman (LegalZoom), Josh King (Avvo), Steven Silberbach (Clio), and Jeroen Plink (advisor to Kira Systems who also built Practical Law Company's US operations before the sale to Thomson Reuters).  

The program is free and open to the public.  For those lucky enough to be near by, you can register here.  Remarkably, it is also broadcast live over the web!  

There is no question that northern California has become the hotbed location for legal start-ups.  Stanford Law is ideally situated to both study and facilitate this evolution.

January 11, 2016 in Current events, Innovations in law, New and Noteworthy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Conditional Scholarship Programs: Comparing 2014-15 with 2011-12

A few years ago, the Council for the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar approved revisions to Standard 509, requiring that law schools post a chart identifying the number of conditional scholarships given to incoming first years and the number of those scholarship recipients whose scholarships were reduced or eliminated at the end of the first year.

As a result of this requirement, there is now a much greater universe of publicly available information about law school scholarship programs. In the summer of 2013, I posted to SSRN an article entitled Better Understanding the Scope of Conditional Scholarship Programs among American Law Schools, summarizing the first year of available data on conditional scholarship programs, covering the 2011-12 academic year.

Law schools have now published this data for four years, with data covering the 2014-15 academic year having just been released as of December 15.

This blog posting highlights the smaller number of law schools with conditional scholarship programs as of 2014-15, summarizes the extent to which the number and percentage of first-year students with conditional scholarships and the number and percentage of rising second-year students whose scholarships were reduced or eliminated has changed since 2011-12, and looks at how the distribution of retention rates by decile has changed since 2011-12. It also analyzes both the prevalence of conditional scholarship programs among law schools across different rankings categories and the extent to which scholarship retention rates differ among law schools across different rankings categories.

1. Number of Law Schools with Conditional Scholarship Programs Declines

Excluding the three law schools in Puerto Rico, there were 140 fully-accredited ABA law schools with conditional scholarship programs in 2011-12. For the 2014-15 academic year, however, the number of fully-accredited ABA law schools with conditional scholarship programs had dropped by 27, to 113, a decline of nearly 20%.

2. Average Conditional Scholarship Retention Rate Increases Modestly

In 2011-12, the average scholarship retention rate across the 140 law schools with conditional scholarship programs was 69%. In total, 12,681 students who entered law school in the fall of 2011 and continued into their second year of law school at the same school entered with conditional scholarships and 4,332 of those students had their scholarships reduced or eliminated, a retention rate across individual students of roughly 66%.

For the 2014-15 academic year, the average retention rate across the 113 law schools with conditional scholarship programs increased to 73.2%. In total, 10,099 students who entered law school in the fall of 2014 and continued into their second year of law school at the same school entered with conditional scholarships and 2,880 of those students had their scholarships reduced or eliminated. Thus, the retention rate across individual students also increased to roughly 71.5%.

3. Percentage of First-Year Students with Conditional Scholarships Stays the Same While the Percentage of Rising Second-Year Students Whose Scholarships were Reduced or Eliminated Declines Slightly 

Across the 194 law schools on which I compiled data for the 2011-12 academic year, the fall 2011 entering first-year class totaled 46,388. Thus, roughly 27.3% (12,681/46,388) of the entering first-year students in the fall 2011 entering first-year class were on conditional scholarships. Roughly 9.4% (4,382/46,388) of all the first-year students in the fall 2011 entering first-year class failed to retain their conditional scholarship as they moved into the second year of law school.

Interestingly, of the 37,086 first-years who matriculated at fully-accredited ABA law schools in fall 2014, roughly 27.2% (10,099/37,086) were on conditional scholarships, almost the exact same percentage as in 2011-12. But a smaller percentage, roughly 7.8% (2,880/37,086) of all the first-year students who entered law school in fall 2014 failed to retain their conditional scholarship as they moved into the second year of law school.

Therefore, even though fewer law schools had conditional scholarship programs, those with such programs offered conditional scholarships to a larger percentage of students, such that the overall percentage of students with conditional scholarships remained roughly the same (27.3% in 2011-12 compared with 27.2% in 2014-15). Nonetheless, because there was a modest increase in retention rates, a smaller percentage of the overall population of students (7.8% in 2015 compared with 9.4% in 2012) saw their conditional scholarships reduced or eliminated.

4. Distribution of Retention Rates by Decile Shows Fewer Schools with Lower Retention Rates

The distribution of retention rates by deciles across all 140 law schools reporting conditional scholarship programs for 2011-2012 and all 113 law schools reporting conditional scholarship programs for 2014-2015 is set forth in Table 1. The biggest change reflected Table 1 is the decrease in the number of law schools with retention rates of less than 70%, falling from 73 in 2011-12 to 40 in 2014-15.

Table 1: Number of Law Schools Reporting Retention Rates by Decile Range

Retention Rate

Number

Description

 

2012      2015

             2012                                     2015

Less than 40%

8

6

Four of the eight were ranked alphabetically

Five of the six were ranked 100 or lower

40-49%

12

4

Six of the 12 were law schools ranked between 50 and 99

Two of the four were ranked 51-99

50-59%

23

17

18 of the 23 were law schools ranked 99 or lower

14 of the 17 were ranked 100 or lower

60-69%

30

13

23 the 30 were ranked in 100 or lower

Nine of the 13 were ranked 100 or lower

70-79%

23

23

13 of the 23 were ranked in the top 100

17 of the 23 were ranked 100 or lower

80-90%

19

24

14 of the 19 were ranked between 51 and 145

10 of the 24 were ranked 51-99

90% or better

25

26

12 of the 25 were ranked in the top 50

14 of the 26 were ranked in the top 100, five in the top 50

TOTAL

140

113

 

5. Differences in Conditional Scholarship Programs across Law School Rankings Categories

As noted in some of the descriptors in Table 1, there also were some differences based on the rankings of the law schools in U.S. News, using the March 2012 rankings and the March 2015 rankings. These differences are summarized in the Tables 2A and 2B and the discussion that follows.

Table 2A – Changes in Number and Percentage of First-Year Students with Conditional Scholarships across Different Categories of Law Schools Based on U.S. News Rankings for 2012 and 2015

Rank

# of Schools

# of Schools with Cond. Scholar.

12        15

% of Schools with Cond. Scholar.

12     15

 # of 1Ls

12        15

# of 1Ls with Conditional Scholarships

12         15

.% of 1Ls with Cond. Scholar.

12          15

Top 50

50

51

20

10

40

20

13109

11715

1656

814

12.8

6.9

51/100

50

50

40

31

80

62

11592

8972

4179

3159

36

35.2

101/150

46

52

36

38

78

73

9293

7899

2803

2997

30.1

37.9

Alpha.

48

42

44

34

92

81

12394

8500

4043

3129

32.6

36.8

TOTAL

194

195

140

113

72

58

46388

37086

12681

10099

27.3

27.2

Table 2A shows that the percentage of fully-accredited ABA law schools with conditional scholarship programs increases as you move down the U.S. News Rankings. Indeed, of the 27 law schools that moved away from conditional scholarship programs between 2011-12 and 2014-15, 19 were ranked in the top 100. As a result, only 41 of the top 100 law schools had conditional scholarship programs as of 2014-15, while 72 law schools ranked 101 or lower had conditional scholarship programs.

Table 2A also shows that the percentage of students with conditional scholarships is basically divided into two camps. Within the top 50 law schools, only 10 law schools have conditional scholarship programs, and five of those have retention rates of 100%, such that really only five of the 51 law schools in the top 50 have meaningful conditional scholarship programs. (At these five schools, however, roughly one in three students with conditional scholarships saw their scholarships reduced or eliminated.) Across all 51 law schools in the top 50, only 6.9% of first-year students have conditional scholarships. Throughout the rest of the law schools, however, roughly 35% to 38% of first-year law students in each rankings category have conditional scholarships.

Even though the percentage of first-year students with conditional scholarships declined among top 50 law schools between 2011-12 and 2014-15, the percentage increased among law schools ranked 101 and below, such that the overall percentage of first-year students with conditional scholarship has remained almost the same between 2011-12 and 2014-15, at slightly more than 27%.

Table 2B – Changes in Retention Rates of Conditional Scholarship Recipients across Different Categories of Law Schools Based on U.S. News and World Report Rankings for 2012 and 2015

Rank

# Scholarships Not Retained

12            15

% of Scholarships Not Retained.

12           15

% of All 1Ls Who Did Not Retain Scholarship

12            15

Top 50

186

167

11.2

20.5

1.4

1.4

51/100

1452

672

34.7

21.3

12.5

7.5

101/150

1069

917

38.1

30.6

11.5

11.6

Alpha.

1625

1124

40.2

35.9

13.1

13.2

TOTAL

4332

2880

34.2

28.5

9.4

7.8

Table 2B shows that the percentage of all students whose conditional scholarships were reduced or eliminated in 2014-15 consistently climbs as one moves down the rankings categories – going from 1.4% among law schools ranked in the top 50, to 7.5% for law schools ranked 51-100, to 11.6% for law schools ranked 101-150, to 13.2% for law schools ranked alphabetically.

Table 2B shows that among law schools ranked in the top 50, the average percentage of conditional scholarship recipients whose scholarships were reduced or eliminated increased between 2011-12 and 2014-15 from 11.2% to 20.5%. (But remember, this is across a relatively small sample of 10 schools and 814 students.) By contrast, across each of the other three categories of law schools, the average percentage of conditional scholarship recipients whose scholarships were reduced or eliminated declined between 2011-12 and 2014-15, from 34.7% to 21.3% among schools ranked 51-100, from 38.1% to 30.6% among schools ranked 101-150, and from 40.2% to 35.9% among law schools ranked alphabetically.

Nonetheless, law schools ranked 51-100 were the only category of law schools which saw a decrease in the percentage of all rising second-year students whose scholarships were reduced or eliminated, as the percentage fell from 12.5% to 7.5%. For top 50 law schools, the combination of fewer students with conditional scholarships, but a higher rate at which scholarships were reduced or eliminated, meant that 1.4% of all students saw their scholarships reduced or eliminated, the same percentage as in 2011-12. For law schools ranked 101 and below, the combination of more students with conditional scholarships, but a lower rate at which scholarships were reduced or eliminated, meant that roughly the same percentage of all students saw their scholarships reduced or eliminated in 2014-15 as in 2011-12 (for law schools ranked 101-150, 11.6% in 2014-15 compared with 11.5% in 2011-12; for law schools ranked alphabetically, 13.2% in 2014-15 compared with 13.1% in 2011-12).  Because of the decrease in the percentage of students whose scholarships were reduced or eliminated in the category of law schools ranked 51-100, however, the percentage of all students who saw their scholarships reduced or eliminated fell from 9.4% in 2011-12 to 7.8% in 2014-15.

Conclusion

Even though 27 fewer law schools had conditional scholarship programs in 2014-15 than in 2011-12, the percentage of all first-year students on conditional scholarships in 2014-15 was nearly the same as in 2011-12 because the 113 schools with conditional scholarship programs, on average, gave conditional scholarships to a larger percentage of their students.

Only 20 percent of law schools in the top 50 have conditional scholarship programs and only 10 percent actually reduced or eliminated scholarships for some of their students. Outside the top 50 law schools, however, more than two-thirds of law schools have conditional scholarship programs and roughly 36.5% of all law students have conditional scholarships. This means more than one-third of first-year students in law schools ranked 51 and below in the U.S. News 2015 rankings needed to be concerned about whether they would perform well enough to retain their conditional scholarships.

December 31, 2015 in Data on legal education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Updating the Transfer Market Analysis for 2015

This blog posting updates my blog postings here and here of December 2014 regarding what we know about the transfer market. With the release of the 2015 Standard 509 Reports, we know have two years of more detailed transfer data from which to glean insights about the transfer market among law schools.

NUMBERS AND PERCENTAGES OF TRANSFERS – 2011-2015

The number of transfers dropped to 1,979 in 2015, down from 2,187 in 2014 and 2,501 in 2013. The percentage of the previous fall’s entering class that engaged in the transfer market also dropped slightly to 5.2%, down from 5.5% in 2014 and 5.6% in 2013. In other words, there is no reason to believe the transfer market is “growing” as a general matter. It has been fairly consistently in the 4.6% to 5.6% range for the last five years, with an average of 5.2%

 

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

Number of Transfers

2427

2438

2501

2187

1979

Previous Year First Year Enrollment

52,500

48,700

44,500

39700

37900

%   of Previous First-Year Total

4.6%

5%

5.6%

5.5%

5.2%

SOME LAW SCHOOLS CONTINUE TO DOMINATE THE TRANSFER MARKET

The following two charts list the top 15 law schools in terms of receiving transfer students in descending order in Summer 2013 (fall 2012 entering class), Summer 2014 (fall 2013 entering class), and Summer 2015 (fall 2014 entering class) – with one chart based on “numbers” of transfers and the other chart based on the number of transfer students as a percentage of the prior year’s first-year class.

Note that in these two charts, the “repeat players” are bolded – those schools in the top 15 for all three years are in black, those schools in the top 15 for two of the three years are in blue.   Seven of the top ten by number in 2015 and seven of the top ten by percentage 2015 have been among the top 15 on each list for all three years.

Largest Law Schools by Number of Transfers from 2013-2015

School

Number in 2013

School

bNumber in 2014

School

Number in 2015

Georgetown

122

Georgetown

113

Georgetown

110

George   Wash.

93

George Wash.

97

George Wash.

109

Florida   St.

90

Arizona St.

66

Arizona St.

65

Emory

75

Idaho

57

Harvard

55

Arizona   State

73

Cal. Berkeley

55

Emory

51

American

68

NYU

53

NYU

51

Texas

59

Emory

50

Cal. Berkeley

49

Columbia

52

Columbia

46

Rutgers

45

NYU

47

American

44

Columbia

44

Minnesota

45

UCLA

44

Miami

44

Arizona

44

Wash. Univ.

44

UCLA

43

Northwestern

44

Texas

43

Texas

37

UCLA

41

Minnesota

37

American

33

Cardozo

38

Northwestern

35

Florida St.

32

Southern   Cal.

37

Harvard

33

Minnesota

31

TOTAL

928

 

817

 

799

% of All Transfers

37.1%

 

37.4%

 

40.4%

 

Largest Law Schools by Transfers as a Percentage of Previous First Year Class - 2013-2015

School

% 2013

School

% 2014

School

% 2015

Florida State

48.1

Arizona State

51.6

Arizona State

45.5

Arizona State

48

Idaho

51.4

Emory

22.9

Utah

34.7

Washington Univ.

23.3

George Wash.

20.2

Emory

29.6

Emory

22.9

Miami

19.2

Arizona

28.9

Georgetown

20.8

Georgetown

19

Minnesota

22

George Wash.

20.2

Cal. Berkeley

17.9

George Wash.

21.8

Cal. Berkeley

19.4

Florida St.

17

Georgetown

21.2

Florida St.

18.2

Florida Int’l

16.7

Rutgers – Camden

20.7

Rutgers – Camden

17.1

Minnesota

16.1

Southern Cal.

19.7

Southern Cal.

17.1

Utah

16

Texas

19.1

Minnesota

16.7

UNLV

14.3

Cincinnati

17.5

Utah

15.9

UCLA

13.7

Northwestern

17.1

Northwestern

15.3

Texas

12.3

Washington Univ.

15.4

UCLA

15

Chicago

12.1

Univ. Washington

15.3

Seton Hall

14.5

Rutgers

12.1

Interestingly, the number of law schools welcoming transfers representing more than 20% of their first-year class has fallen from nine in 2013 to only three in 2015.

Nonetheless, as shown in the following chart, we are continuing to see a modest increase in concentration in the transfer market between 2011 and 2015 as the ten law schools with the most students transferring in captured an increasing share of the transfer market, from 23.5% in 2011 to 31.5% in 2015.  Nearly one-third of all transfers in 2015 transferred to one of the ten schools with the most transfers.

Top Ten Law Schools as a Percentage of All Transfers

 

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

Total Transfers

2427

2438

2501

2187

1979

Transfers to 10 Law Schools with Most Transfers

570

587

724

625

623

Transfers to 10 Law Schools with Most Transfers as % of Total Transfers

23.5%

24.1%

28.9%

28.6%

31.5%

NATIONAL AND REGIONAL MARKETS

Starting in 2014, the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar began collecting and requiring schools with more than twelve transfers in to report not only the number of students who have transferred in, but also the law schools from which they came (indicating the number from each law school) along with the 75%, 50% and 25% first-year, law school GPAs of the students who transferred in. This allows us to look at where students are coming from and are going to, and to look at the first-year GPA profile of students transferring in to different law schools. The following chart focuses on the top 15 law schools in terms of transfers in for 2015 presented in descending USNews ranking. It indicates the extent to which these law schools were attracting transfers from their geographic region and also identifies the law school that provided the largest number of transfers to each listed law school as well as the percentage of transfers that came from that school.

Percentage of Transfers from Within Geographic Region and Top Feeder School(s)

School

# of Transfers

14/15

Region

Regional # of Transfers

14/15

Regional % of Transfers

14/15

School from Which Largest Number of Transfers Came in 2015

#/% of Transfers

Harvard

33/55

NE

6/15

18/27

GWU

6/11%

Columbia

46/44

NE

19/19

41/43

Wash. Univ.

5/11%

NYU

50/51

NE

20/15

40/29

Georgetown

7/14%

Berkeley

55/49

CA

43/29

78/59

Hastings

19/39%

Georgetown

113/110

Mid-Atl

49/43

43/39

GWU

11/10%

Texas

43/37

TX

27/22

63/59

Texas Tech

6/16%

UCLA

44/43

CA

31/26

70/60

Hastings

9/21%

Emory

53/51

SE

40/31

75/61

Atlanta’s   John

Marshall

11/22%

Minnesota

37/31

MW

21/17

57/55

Hamline

9/29%

GWU

97/109

Mid-Atl

78/70

80/64

American

44/40%

Azizona St.

66/65

SW

51/48

77/74

Arizona Sum.

47/72%

Florida St.

31/32

SE

24/27

77/84

Florida Coastal

11/34%

Miami

29/44

SE

21/27

72/61

St. Thomas

12/27%

American

44/33

Mid-Atl

14/6

32/18

Charleston

3/9%

Rutgers*

45

NE

29

64

Widener-Delaware

10/22%

*Rutgers is a unified school as of 2015, but for 2014 reported data separately for the Newark campus and the Camden campus, so this only reports the 2015 data.

For these top 15 law schools for transfer students in 2015, 10 schools obtained most of their transfers (55% or more) from within the geographic region within which the law school is located, while five schools (Harvard, Columbia, NYU, Georgetown and American) had fewer than 45% of their transfers from within the region in which they are located.  Interestingly, 11 of the 14 law schools with data for both 2014 and 2015 saw a decline in the percentage of transfers from within the region in which the law school is located. Only two law schools in 2015 had more than 70% of their transfers from within the region in which the law school is located (Arizona State and Florida State), down from seven such law schools in 2014.

Moreover, several law schools had a significant percentage of their transfers from one particular feeder school.  For Miami, roughly 34% of its transfers came from St. Thomas University (Florida); for Berkeley, roughly 39% of its transfers came from Hastings; for George Washington, 40% of its transfers came from American; and for Arizona State, 72% of its transfers came from Arizona Summit.

The chart below shows the tiers of law schools from which the largest 15 law schools in the transfer market received their transfer students.  Ten of the top 15 law schools for transfers are ranked in the top 20 in USNews, but of those 10, only six had 75% or more of their transfers from schools ranked between 1 and 99 in the USNews rankings – Harvard, Columbia, NYU, Berkeley, UCLA and George Washington.  Two additional schools, Georgetown and Texas, had at least 50% of their transfers from schools ranked between 1 and 99.  The remaining two law schools ranked in the top 20 in USNews (Emory and Minnesota) and the other five law schools in the list had at least half of their transfer students from law schools ranked 100 or lower, with five of those law schools having 75% or more of their transfers from law schools ranked 100 or lower. 

In addition, it shows that as you move down the rankings of law schools that are large players in the transfer market, the general trend in first-year law school GPA shows a significant decline, with several schools taking a number of transfers with first-year GPAs below a 3.0, including Minnesota, Arizona State, Florida State, Miami and American.

 Percentage of Transfers from Different Tiers of School(s) for 2014 and 2015 Along With First-Year Law School GPA 75th/50th/25th)

(In each column, the number on the left is the 2014 number and the number on the right is the 2015 number.)

(Highlighted cells indicate the modal response for each law school.)

(Color-coding of GPA data Reflects increases (Green) or decreases (Red) of .05 or more points.)

 

# of Transfers

 

Rank Top 50

   #              %

Rank 51-99

   #              %

Rank 100+

   #              %

GPA 75th

 

GPA 50th

 

GPA 25th

 

Harvard

33/55

23/41

70/75

10/13

30/24

0/1

0/2

3.95/3.98

3.9/3.92

3.83/3.85

Columbia

46/44

29/30

63/68

14/10

30/23

3/4

7/9

3.81/3.82

3.75/3.76

3.69/3.66

NYU

50/51

41/40

82/78

7/10

14/20

2/1

4/2

3.74/3.76

3.62/3.68

3.47/3.52

Berkeley

55/49

17/15

31/31

27/26

49/53

11/8

20/16

3.9/3.87

3.75/3.81

3.68/3.69

Georgetown

113/110

27/30

24/27

38/30

34/27

48/50

42/45

3.77/3.77

3.67/3.66

3.55/3.59

Texas

43/37

17/10

40/27

13/13

30/35

13/14

30/38

3.62/3.6

3.45/3.46

3.11/3.32

UCLA

44/43

15/15

34/35

23/23

52/53

6/5

14/12

3.73/3.7

3.58/3.58

3.44/3.46

Emory

53/51

3/5

6/10

7/8

13/16

43/38

81/75

3.42/3.45

3.27/3.3

2.93/3.06

GWU

97/109

13/21

13/19

73/63

75/58

11/25

11/23

3.53/3.46

3.35/3.32

3.21/3.15

Minnesota

37/31

4/6

11/19

12/7

32/23

21/18

57/58

3.3/3.43

3.1/3.12

2.64/2.96

Arizona St.

66/65

4/0

6/0

5/6

8/9

57/59

86/91

3.51/3.5

3.23/3.17

2.97/2.95

Florida St.

31/32

2/0

6/0

4/2

13/6

25/30

81/94

3.29/3.32

3.1/3.14

2.9/2.96

Miami

29/44

1/3

3/7

4/7

14/16

24/34

83/77

3.3/3.26

3.07/3.05

2.87/2.9

American

44/33

2/0

5/0

14/1

32/3

28/32

64/97

3.25/3.04

2.94/2.89

2.78/2.74

Rutgers

45

0

0

2

4

43

96

/3.29

/3.05

/2.75

STILL MANY UNKNOWNS

As I noted last year, this more detailed transfer data should be very helpful to prospective law students and pre-law advisors, and to current law students who are considering transferring.  This data gives them a better idea of what transfer opportunities might be available depending upon where they go to law school (or are presently enrolled as a first-year student).

Even with this more granular data now available, however, there still are a significant number of unknowns relating to transfer students.  In an upcoming post, I will touch on some questions that remain unanswered about the transfer market as well as a few other aspects of the transfer experience.

December 29, 2015 in Data on legal education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Family Tree of Some of the Great NYC Law Firms

WcarterHoliday down time enabled me to dust off some gems in my home library.  Below is a fascinating family tree of the law firms associated with Walter S. Carter. This meticulously drawn chart is an appendix from Otto Koegel's 1954 book, Walter S. Carter, Collector of Young Masters

Walter Carter was prominent a 19th century business lawyer who began his career in Milwaukee and eventually migrated to Chicago. After the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, Carter had so many lawsuits against bankrupt insurance companies that he moved to New York City and began hiring able young law graduates to help him with an enormous surplus of legal work.  Carter prided himself on his ability to identify, hire, and mentor exceptional legal talent.  Koegel's book is about "Carter's kids."

From 1888-1891, Carter's firm operated as Carter, Hughes & Cravath, with Paul Cravath and Charles Evan Hughes as the other two name partners.  Both Cravath and Hughes began their careers as associates in Carter's firm.  Cravath left in 1891 and by 1899 eventually landed at the firm that would become Cravath Swaine & Moore.  Other major NYC firms on the family tree include Milbank Tweed, Wilkie Farr & Gallagher, Cadwalder Wickersham & Taft, and Shearman & Sterling.  Carter's legacy firm split for the last time in 1937, creating what is now the present day Hughes Hubbard & Reed and Dwight, Royall, Harris, Koegal & Caskey (where Otto Koegel was a name partner).  The latter firm subsequently evolved into Rogers & Wells before being swallowed up by Magic Circle firm Clifford Chance in 2000.

[Click on family tree to enlarge]  OceTDS001104

The relatively large number of branches in the tree may be attributable to disagreements over how to divide firm profits.  As observed by one former partner, Carter "picked his partners as Connie Mack picked ball players, usually dropping them after they demanded or earned as much as he did" (p. 91).

This coordination problem was eventually solved through the "Cravath system", which enabled partners to scale their firms to meet the needs of the nation's most sophisticated business clientele. In the Cravath firm history, credit is given to the training principles of Walter S. Carter.  With this system, which was designed to create a "better lawyer faster", the Cravath firm became a magnet for both clients and talented young lawyers. Rising profits presumably reduced acrimony over how they should be divided. This ethos gave rise to the modern large law firm.  

Although it does not appear on the family tree by name, Carter began his career at the Milwaukee law firm that would eventually become Foley & Lardner (then known as Finches, Lynde & Miller).   He then went on to become a name partner in Carter, Davis & Flanders, which would later evolve into Michael Best & Friedrich.  Readers will no doubt notice other familiar connections on the Walter Carter family tree.

December 27, 2015 in Law Firms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 21, 2015

"Income at KPMG legal up 53 per cent"

GlobalegalpostThat is the headline this morning from the Global Legal Post, a publication that compiles legal news from around the world. The context is the UK, where changes in legal regulations now permit nonlawyers to own and control legal enterprises through alternative business structures, or ABSs.  

Victoria Basham writes:

KPMG, one of the Big Four accountancy firms to offer legal services through an alternative business structure, has reported a huge rise in income from the division and pledged further investment.

Net sales in its fledgling legal services division climbed 53 per cent in the year to 30 September. The firm’s newly-published annual report comments: ‘Despite [this growth] being from a relatively low base, it’s clear that clients really like our idea of wrapping multi-disciplinary legal advice around our other propositions.

Continue to invest

The report added that the firm would continue to invest heavily in new hires to grow the business in both existing and new areas, including corporate crime and regulation.

The story reports that three of the Big Four now offer legal services under an ABS license.  Basham credits the The Law Society Gazette as her source.

Related posts:

December 21, 2015 in Cross industry comparisons, Current events, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Less Talk of Disruption, More Talk of Creation

There is a natural tendency in people to lament what is familiar and good but now fading away. We are in one of these cycles in law, largely because law firms and law schools are no longer on the familiar path of smooth and steady growth.  As a group, lawyers are very good at being pessimistic and dour.  But enough already.  We're intelligent people.  It's time to move on.

WaisbergIf you're looking for intelligent, constructive, realistic ways to view the future of the legal industry, I would commend you to Noah Waisberg's guest post over at 3 Geeks and a Law Blog. Waisberg is CEO of Kira Systems, which deploys technology to assist in corporate M&A and contract management.  Waisberg is also a lawyer.  Nonetheless, he sees tremendous opportunity in law to do both good and well.  In his own words:

Law practice today is a land of opportunity. This is due to the combination of

  1. underserved legal consumers, and
  2. technologies and processes that make legal work more efficient, which make serving these consumers possible.

Lawyers who embrace efficiency have the opportunity to do more law for their clients. And make more money in the process.

We lawyers sell to a market that is not getting anywhere close to all the legal services it needs.  Underserved legal consumers fall into three categories:

  1. Access to Justice. People without means to pay premium prices for a lawyer needing access to legal services.
  2. Middle class legal needs. Many decently-well-off people don't spend money on legal services that would help them. How many people use lawyers to resolve their disputes, negotiate their employment contracts or write their wills?
  3. Corporates. Most companies, even the biggest ones, do not obtain anywhere close to all the legal services they need.

This spread between latent demand and supply represents opportunity to sell more. Unfortunately the current techniques for delivering and selling legals services are so expensive and inefficient that these underserved consumers can't or won't pay for them.

My hats off to Waisberg for seeing through and past the dominant narrative to find the reset button.  If we focus on the needs of clients and customers, rather than what is going away and being lost, we can begin to see the future.  And it's a good one.

December 12, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Constitutional Pilpul (Or The Second Amendment and Why I Despair of Reason)

UnknownAfter almost sixty years devoted to the life of the mind, it has come to this.  I despair of reason.  Or at least in what passes nowadays for public discourse, its degradation into something that resembles pilpul - a Talmudic form of argumentation that justifies a desired outcome by linkage to a fixed text.

This is about guns and absolutism of ideas.  I'm a pretty passionate moderate.  Generally speaking, the nutty right and the nutty left both make me cringe.  Mostly the nutty left wants me to feel bad for having money or because I'm a white male, and I can deal with that.  But the nutty right wants nutty people to have the right to have not just guns, but guns that provoke the image of Neo at the end of The Matrix (Tank: "So what do you need besides a miracle?"  Neo: "Guns.  Lots of guns.")

I have pretty scrupulously avoided getting involved in constitutional debate (a) because it's a crowded field already, and (b) what I'm about to say has always underlain my "meta" feelings about many (or most) of the debates.  But having been sickened once again by a mass shooting, having no affinity for guns whatsoever (never held a real one, I don't think), and believing that what sounds like legal reasoning is instead a means of justifying or rationalizing an unchangeable and absolute position by linkage to an antecedent text, I'm going to (at least) dip my toes in the water.  

As I have said to several people in the last few days, I'm pretty sure I have a right under the Second Amendment to keep a musket (and maybe even a couple dueling pistols) to grab when the Massachusetts Militia calls on me to resist an invasion of Birkenstock-clad Catamounts from Vermont, but every right beyond that calls on lawyerly argumentation and dialectic for its justification.  And I've spent a good part of my brief but intense academic career thinking and writing about lawyerly argumentation and dialectic, at least as it compares and contrasts with making judgments, and particularly in the business arena.

So how is it that what most people seem to think - that there ought to be reasonable restrictions on gun purchase and ownership - can't get past the absolutists?  It's because reason is no longer part of the discussion, and debate isn't about what makes sense but about Law with a capital L as though we were dealing with the words of a constitutional deity.

Let me try to explain my despair (in this particular instance, about gun control, but more generally about what passes for the reasoning process) by talking about pilpul.  

Continue reading

December 9, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lawyers' Contribution to Organizational Behavior

AdamsmithMy good friend Bruce MacEwen of Adam Smith Esq. recently ran across a training manual providing instructions on proper behavior within organizations. Bruce thought that some of the advice appeared to be very similar to how law firms make decisions.  Likewise, when I read it, I thought it described some of the natural propensities of law professors.  Is it possible that law partners and law faculty provide the model behavior for all other organizations?

Hold on.  The book is serious. And so is the advice.  Read the "how to" advice below, which is quoted verbatim from the original source. Then click on the hyperlink where Bruce shares the author and title. 

(a) Organizations and Conferences

(1) Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions. 

(2) Make "speeches." Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your "points" by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate [loyal] comments.

(3) When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make the committees as large as possible – never less than five.

(4) Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.

(5) Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.

(6) Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.

(7) Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow-conferees to be “reasonable” and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.

(8) Be worried about the propriety of any decision – raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.

The above is for the rank and file.  Here is some of the advice given to middle management:

(b) Managers and Supervisors

(2) ... . Ask endless questions or engage in long correspondence about instructions. Quibble over them when you can.

(7) Insist on perfect work in relatively unimportant products.

(11) Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.

And the source?  See here.

December 9, 2015 in Blog posts worth reading, Cross industry comparisons, New and Noteworthy | Permalink | Comments (0)