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The Sky Is Falling: New Students Have Lowest LSATs in Years

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on April 20, 2015 6:58 AM

For the fifth year in a row, the number of entering law students with high LSAT scores has dropped, leading to hand-wringing concern that the lawyers of tomorrow won't be as smart as the lawyers of yesterday.

Indeed, less than half as many entering 1Ls had scores above 165 in 2015 as they did in 2010. Do America's best and brightest no longer want to be lawyers?

Not Going to Law School Is the Smart Thing to Do

The drop in average test scores matches the drop in the amount of students applying to law school. This, commenters say, leads to schools accepting students who otherwise wouldn't have made the cut had they applied before the Great Recession. Some have called for law schools to shrink class size in order to help maintain a higher standard of students. The schools, which make a pretty penny from law students, have been less enthusiastic about that idea.

The decline in top-performing students entering law school shouldn't be that surprising, however. The law market still hasn't recovered from its implosion several years ago. While there's been signs of growth, associate salaries haven't kept pace. Just as top students turned away from careers on Wall Street at the height of the financial crisis, they're also staying away from the legal market.

Trouble Ahead, Trouble Behind

In a study that might shore up the claim that you're really smart, but just "bad at tests," students who perform well on the LSAT also have greater success at the bar exam. This means that the lower numbers could result in problems when it comes time to sit for the exam. We could already be seeing that happen -- last year's bar exams had the lowest pass rates in 40 years.

Poor performance on the bar exam has lead to finger pointing between the test makers and law school deans. The National Council of Bar Examiners blamed the disheartening results on the prospective lawyers, saying they were "less able" than previous cohorts. Several law schools took issue with that and said the test was to blame. Some called for eliminating the bar exam entirely.

If the slump continues, it might not be just the bar examine we need to rethink, but the LSAT, as well.

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