Probably all of the above.
At some very elite law schools, applications for this year's fall class are still being accepted. That's pretty stunning, considering that the deadline was February 1 at some of these schools.
The bane of legal academia, University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos, writes about these findings in his blog Inside the Law School Scam. According to Campos's research, 28 of the top 50 schools were still accepting applications as of July 24. Among the top 20 schools that are still willing to review applications are University of Chicago, Northwestern, Georgetown, Cornell, UCLA, Texas, Vanderbilt, Minnesota, and George Washington.
Campos says he was alerted to all this when one of his readers decided to contact the top 50 schools to see whether he could still apply for the fall class. The reader, who informed the schools about his high LSAT scores, was told he could apply. Another reader, who didn't tell the schools about his LSAT scores, got a different reception. Writes Campos:
Ten of these 28 schools told my [second] correspondent who called the admissions office that they were not accepting applications (This person, unlike the emailer, gave no information about his qualifications). These ten schools are Chicago, Michigan, Texas, UCLA, George Washington, Emory, Boston U, Arizona State, Fordham, and George Mason. (In addition, Wisconsin told the caller the answer was no, but that the school “might consider an exception.”).
Campos, who's even more cynical than I am about certain issues of the legal world, suggests that law schools are being hypocritical and unethical about their admissions process. In fact, he even questions whether law schools are behaving illegally by telling different candidates different things.
It seems to me that Campos is at heart a romantic, a crusader for the underdog. He writes:
These sorts of shenanigans illustrate yet another unfair advantage possessed by people with enough cultural capital to understand that even at high-status institutions The Rules aren’t really the rules if you know how to work the system.
I hate to call Campos naive—because I don't disagree with many of his points—but is he really surprised that different rules apply to different people? Of course, law schools will make exceptions for someone who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from a top college and has sky-high LSAT scores. And I bet law firms will find space for an Order of the Coif grad from Columbia who decides to quit Legal Aid at the 11th hour for Big Law. And, yes, having connections—like knowing the dean of the law school or the managing partner at a firm—always helps too.
So if you have knock-your-socks-off LSATs and you're still hustling to get into a more prestigious law school, go for it. I won't blame you.