Getting a High-Value Law Degree

Click here to learn the 5 fatal flaws to avoid in your law school personal statement!

Have a high LSAT? Pay less for law school.

Applications to law schools are down – which should be good news for applicants, right? Maybe not. A new article in Business Week points out that LSATs still matter. People who have higher LSAT scores – and, consequently, stronger applications – pay less for law school than less qualified applicants.

The article points that out people who scored over 165 on the LSAT have the option to either pay up to $120,000 for three years at a top ten school or pay less to attend a school slightly lower ranked. These students are most likely to get jobs in a contracting market, so their investment is worthwhile.

Those who score below 150 on the LSAT, however, still pay around $40,000 a year to go to low- or unranked schools. These people are the ones least likely to find employment upon graduation even though they paid the same as the high-LSAT scorers. Such a “high-cost, low-value” situation is affecting twice as many people as in prior years.

So, what’s the take-away for applicants? Rank matters, especially when you are paying for a law degree. Be sure that you make your application as strong as you can both by studying for the LSAT and submitting an excellent personal statement.

8 Tips for Law School Admissions
JessicaPishkoJessica Pishko graduated with a J.D. from Harvard Law School and received an M.F.A. from Columbia University. She spent two years guiding students through the medical school application process at Columbia’s PostBacc Program and teaches writing at all levels. 
Related Resources:

5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in Your Law School Application
• 5 Things Law Schools Want To See In Applicants
• How I Wrote a Personal Statement that Got Me Into Harvard Law School

LSAT Scores Drop Among Students at Top Law Schools

Do you have a low LSAT score? Here are some stats from a recent Businessweek article on the declining LSAT scores at U.S. law schools:

  • Since 2010, 95% of the 196 U.S. law schools (those at least partially accredited by the ABA) lowered their standards for students in the bottom quartile of students (at the 25th percentile).
  • Emory University saw the largest drop in LSAT scores for 25th percentile students with a 5% drop (nine fewer points) from 2010 to 2013.
  • Across all schools examined by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), LSAT scores for this bottom quartile dropped an average of three points.
  • The median LSAT score across all schools declined 1.7 points since 2010.
  • First-year enrollment in ABA law schools is down 28% since 2010. (At Emory, enrollment declined 21% in this time period.)

According to the BW article, “LSAT scores matter because they tend to correlate closely with scores on one section of the bar exam, so when schools admit lower-scoring students on the former test, they risk producing more graduates who have a hard time passing the bar.”

ABA-Accredited Law Schools that Saw the Greatest Drop in Scores among the 25th Percentile:

LSAT scores at the top law school


Accepted.com: The Premier Admissions Consultancy
Related Resources:

How I Wrote a Personal Statement that Got Me Into Harvard Law School
5 Things Law Schools Want To See In Applicants
At the Nexus of Business & Law: Penn/Wharton’s JD/MBA

Review of BenchPrep’s Online Test Prep Site

Check out BenchPrep!I just logged into the BenchPrep test prep website and am welcomed with their greeting of “Gain an unfair advantage on test day”; I like this – a test prep site with an edge! Let’s continue exploring…

After you sign in and choose your test (see list below), you’ll then choose your target test date. The program then generates a study plan of week-by-week tasks that you’ll need to complete to achieve your optimal preparedness for your chosen exam. Each task has a timeframe next to it, indicating the expected amount of time the exercise should take – a nice touch.

As you move through the little icons on the left side of the screen, you’ll encounter some nice features – games (mainly flashcard games – pretty simple and straightforward), practice tests, discussion boards, study groups, and others. Another organizational feature is the table of contents icon which, when you click on it, gives you a very clear outline of your study plan with links to other parts of the site.

There is also a BenchPrep mobile app (Android and iPhone), making this program excellent for test-preppers on-the-go!

One thing I’d like to see more of on this site are videos. There is certainly no shortage of written prep resources here – there are loads of practice tests and explanations and tips, which of course are extremely important. For some people, this may be exactly what they’re looking for, but others – those auditory/visual types – the absence of video will be noticed.

Tests (a sampling):

ACT • GMAT • PMP Exam
• AP Exam • GRE • Police Officer Exam
• CFA Level I Exam                       . • LSAT • Postal Exam
• CLEP • MCAT • Praxis Test
• EMT • Nursing School Entrance Exams        . • SAT
• FRM • PCAT
• Firefighter Exam • PE Exam

Features:

• Ask-a-tutor, and receive an answer within 24 hours
•  Bookmarking and highlighting features
•  Ratings/tracking of your confidence level (so you can go back to review those weak areas)
•  Games
•  Practice tests
•  Discussion boards
•  Study groups

Head to BenchPrep now to check out these features on your own!

MBA Admissions A-Z: 26 Great Tips

Accepted.com

WSJ Law Blog Offers Most Recent Law Applicant Stats

Check out our recent podcast episode, "Business, Law, and Beyond."

Number of LSAT test takers is down, and that’s a good thing.

Highlights of the Wall Street Journal article, “Number of LSAT Test Takers Is Down 45% Since 2009,” include:

• The number of LSAT exams administered in October 2013 (33,673 exams) is 11% lower than in October 2012 (37,780 exams). This is the lowest test taker volume since 1998.

• The total number of LSAT test takers in June and October is down 38% from four years ago when test taker volume peaked. The number of test takers in October alone is down 45% compared to the 2009 high.

• The number of law school applicants dropped 12.3% compared to last year, and application volume dropped 17.9% this year.

My Take

This is good news.

There used to be a naïve belief that a legal degree was a “good thing to have.” That’s true if it’s also an inexpensive thing to have, which a law degree is not.

When the legal job market initially tanked, applicants were still applying to law school in droves. Apparently that madness has ended. These LSAT stats indicate that those serious about the law and using their legal education professionally are taking the LSAT and that far fewer applicants are defaulting to law from the social sciences and humanities than did so a few years ago.

People committed to a career that requires a legal degree and promises an income in excess of the cost of a legal education are the ones who should be taking the LSAT. And there are simply fewer people who believe they fit that description today than there were five years ago. Plus, more people today recognize both the high cost and the more limited opportunity associated with a J.D. than in years past.

They should have recognized it five years ago. The good news is that more do so today.







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Should You Retake the LSAT?

Click here for advice on dealing with a low LSAT score

To retake or not to retake?

Completing the LSAT requires both time and money – you must dedicate extra effort to preparing for the test in order to earn as high a score as possible. After you receive your initial LSAT score, you must then decide if it is worth the additional resources necessary to retake the test, aiming for a better score. In coming to this conclusion, there are three factors that you should consider.

How far below your intended school’s ideal score were you?

Schools typically publish the range of LSAT scores for their admitted students, and future admissions decisions are largely based on the candidate’s GPA and LSAT score. Obviously, the higher your LSAT score, the stronger your application will be, but you need to consider how close both your GPA and your LSAT score are. If one, or both, are at the top of the range, then you have less to gain from retaking the test – you are already in a comfortable position for admission. If you are on the low end, however, then you may wish to sit for the exam again in order to increase your score and therefore your odds of acceptance as well.

How many more points do you need for scholarship money?

Some schools will make scholarship decisions based, in part, on LSAT scores. Even if your LSAT score and GPA are comfortably within the school’s required range, an LSAT score above the school’s 75th percentile can often translate to awarded financial aid. The less you pay for school, the less debt you will graduate with, and therefore, it may be worth the extra effort to take the LSAT again.

What was your LSAT score the first time?

Before deciding whether to retest, you need to critically examine what your LSAT score was and why you got that score. Lower scores are, by their nature, easier to improve upon; it is easier to go from a 150 to a 160 than it is to go from a 160 to a 170, and it is harder still to get from a 170 to a 175.

In deciding whether or not you have room to improve, the first thing to consider is what your highest practice scores were – were they better than your test day score, or lower? If your test day score was significantly higher (more than three or four points) than your strongest practice score, then you may want to hold on tight to the score that you have. Try taking another practice test and see if you are able to get a score close to, or higher than, your test day score.

You should also determine why you got the score that you did. Did you run out of time on a section and answer the last five questions incorrectly? Did you struggle with one particular logic game, but get the rest of the section largely correct? In situations like this, retaking the test, especially if you can fix the timing issue or understand how to solve the game that you didn’t comprehend the first time, can improve your score. However, if you answered random questions incorrectly for no discernible reason (and not, for example, all of a certain type of logical reasoning problem, like the assumption questions), then it will be more difficult to increase your score.

Retaking the LSAT, if your score increases, will likely aid you in gaining acceptance into a better school, and may result in more scholarship money. However, retaking the test can also be a gamble and you do risk your score dropping. You need to consider whether the potential reward justifies the time, expense, and uncertainty. If it can ensure your acceptance to your first-choice school, greatly increase your chances of a scholarship, or is an easily correctable mistake from the previous test, then taking the exam again is probably advisable. Otherwise, it might be best to stick with the score that you have.







Justin Meyer is a professional LSAT tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. He holds a JD from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William & Mary.