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Attention, Shoppers: Law Schools Want Your Business!

Vivia Chen

June 6, 2013

Shoppers © Andres Rodriguez - Fotolia.com[1]Correction, 6/7/13, 4:15 p.m. EDT: The original version of this story mistakenly implied that the number of people applying for admission to Cornell University Law School this year is down 27 percent from last year. In fact, last year's applicant pool was 27 percent smaller than 2011's; as of Friday, this year's pool was slightly larger than last year's. The headline, subheadline, and third paragraph of the story have been revised to reflect the accurate information. We regret the confusion. 

Are top law schools losing their exclusivity? Maybe. As everyone knows by now, law school applications have been falling—over 13 percent so far this year. The question is how that drop might affect you—the potential consumer of legal education.

BloombergBusinessweek.com just came out with "seven things that you don't know about law school admissions"—and it's quite entertaining. (Bloomberg culled data from the ABA and the Law School Admissions Council about the entering class of 2012 to come up with the list.) I won't go into all the points (you'll have to watch this rather stilted video on Bloomberg's site to get the full monty), but let me share a few trends that caught my eye:

 - You might have a shot at Cornell. "Of the nation's elite schools, Cornell had the biggest drop [for class entering in 2012], with applications down 27 percent," reports Bloomberg.  But hurry and apply, because its application rate has been recovering. For the class starting this fall, applications rose to 4091 from 4054 last year, says Kathleen Corcoran, Cornell Law's spokesperson. (She also adds that the law school had "extraordinarily" high applications before the drop in 2012.)

As for Yale Law: Fuggedaboutit! "Nationwide, both median GPAs and median LSAT scores dropped, on average, about half a percent. But the odds are, you STILL can't get into Yale, which has the highest GPA [3.9] and LSAT [173] scores in the nation."

- Law schools where the odds of acceptance are on your side. There was a 9 percent cut in total size nationwide, but 45 schools went the opposite direction and expanded their class. Law schools with the biggest increase include: Washington and Lee (55 percent); North Carolina Central (53 percent); and University of California at Irvine (34 percent).

- Law schools where your pet poodle can probably get in: Vermont Law School (83 percent acceptance rate); Phoenix School of Law (86 percent); New England Law School (88 percent). 

Despite the fall in the number of applications, Bloomberg warns prospective law students not to get too cocky about getting into the most selective law schools. "The top 25 schools on the US News list offered admission to an average of just 23 percent of their applicants," says Bloomberg, adding that Yale only accepts 8 percent and Stanford 10 percent.

So, okay, I get that law schools like Yale and Stanford are probably just as hard as ever to get into. But I wouldn't be at all discouraged by that overall acceptance rate of 23 percent at the top 25 schools. That's almost a one-in-four chance of getting into a top school, which, in my book, is quite decent.

And keep this in mind: Getting into a top law school beats the odds of getting into a kindergarten at a private school in New York City any day. Puts it all in perspective, no?


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Going to law school is insane these days unless you think spending $200,000 and 3.5 years of your 20s for a coin flip's chance at a $50,000 job is a goo deal. Have to admire the law school business model though: provide misleading ROI data about jobs and rake in the taxpayer-backed student loans. GENIUS! And apparently the federal government could care less that all this taxpayer money is being wasted and students' lives are being destroyed.

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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: [email protected]

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