With more than one million lawyers in the United States, governing organizations such as the American Bar Association and the respective state bar associations continue to grapple with the question of how to qualify lawyers. A new study calls for law schools to raise their admissions standards. The study says that law schools have lower attrition rates when their students have higher LSAT scores.
University of St. Thomas School of Law professor Jerry Organ completed the study. According to his research, when a law school’s entering class has a median LSAT score of 160, attrition is 0.2-0.3 percent. Organ doesn’t count students who leave school for other reasons. He notes that attrition rates have increased in the past several years before finally declining in the 2016-17 academic year. Organ says that the closure of Charlotte School of Law may have skewed the statistic for the 2016-17 year.
Organ says that the data shows that as LSAT scores fall, attrition rates rise. For schools where LSAT scores range from 155 to 159, the attrition rate rises to two percent. When the LSAT scores fall to 150 to 154, attrition rises to more than four percent.
The most startling data is when LSAT scores are less than 150. With LSAT scores ranging from 145-150, a school can expect academic attrition that ranges between 12.7 and 14.3 percent. When LSAT scores dip below 145, the academic attrition rate is a staggering 25.3 percent. Organ says that the 25.3 percent figure is a sharp increase from an attrition rate of 15.6 percent for the lowest group in years past.
Schools with low LSAT scores are on the rise. In 2010, only one accredited law school claimed the ominous title of having an entering class with a median LSAT score that fell below 145. Fast forward to 2014 and 12 law schools could claim the distinction.
Some say that Organ’s study calls for law schools to raise their admissions standards. They say that low-performing law schools should close. They say that it’s unfair for law schools to collect upwards of $40,000 per year from students they know aren’t likely to graduate or pass the bar.
Others say that law schools with relatively open admissions policies allow people who go on to make good lawyers to find a way into the profession. They say they’re willing to give people a chance. As long as the students are willing to pay for the chance, they say, they’re not doing anything wrong and even performing a public service.