For the last two years, fewer students are signing up to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). This past year saw a 16% drop in participation – the largest drop in participation in the decade.
The fact of the matter is, current market conditions have made law school utterly unappealing for students. Every aspect of the law school process is incredibly expensive. In order to begin the long and arduous process, one must set up a profile at the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC). The LSAC is the organization that creates, scores, and administers the LSAT. This organization also has a de facto monopoly over law school admissions. Nearly every “top” law program requires you to utilize the LSAC services. As a result, they operate as a monopoly is expected to behave. In order to take the LSAT once, you must pay $160. For a penniless broke college student, this means you only get one chance to show off your skills. Not to mention LSAT scores are averaged by most schools, not ranked where the best score is accepted like the SAT). Because the first try is so crucial, most students pursue programs like Kaplan, Testmasters, or PowerScore to assist their studies – programs costing as much as $1,000 or more. The students that pay for these services generally set the aggregate average for the test, and therefore have the best chance to get into a “top” law program.
Unlike College Board’s SAT, LSAC controls every aspect of the law school search, from applying to law schools to processing the letter of recommendation. The LSAC fee for the “Credential Assembly Service” (CAS) is an additional $124. You generally have to apply to your desired law school through the LSAC website. You must pay an application fee to both LSAC and the Law School. LSAC application fee is $12 per school. School application fees generally run from $60 to $120.
Let’s say you're an average law school seeking student with a 3.75 GPA trying to go to University of [State] for Law School. You probably work a part-time job to pay for college and may be lucky enough to have internship experience, maybe even in the legal field. You go, like many other potential law students, to a free Kaplan LSAT Practice test. To your shock and horror, you score a 149. You have a score high enough to get into John C. Smith Law School (est. 2002). You panic; you have no back-up plan for the legal career that you desire. Everyone has always told you that you would make a good lawyer. You listen to the calm voice of the LSAT practice test moderator tell you that after taking a Kaplan course, most students score 10-20 points higher.
You think, if I can just get my score 10 points higher, I’ll have just enough that my high GPA will push me over the edge. You sign up for the fully online “On Demand” Logic Games – which was the section that really kicked you in the rear – costing you only $299. You then register for the LSAT. If you wait any longer, you won’t be able to meet the April deadline. You pay the $284 to the LSAC to register for CAS and the LSAT. After taking the course, you go take the LSAT. You feel pretty confident. You studied hard, were able to soar through the logic games, the reading comprehension section seemed easy, and the logical reasoning wasn’t that bad either. You decide to apply to four schools – the University of [State], the [State] State University, the local Ivy wannabe (or actual) school, and a back up school. The total cost of apply for these four schools was $408 - $48 to the LSAC and $360 to each university. You then get back your results – you made a 156. The “big name” schools you applied to will probably laugh in your face – you feel like a fool. You have just paid $991 for the privilege to get told that you fail at the one thing everyone has told you that you are good at, despite countless hours of preparation and real-life experience. Thus ends the story for law school for most applicants.
Let’s postulate that you do actually score a 161 – or even a 175 – and you are able to get into a “big name” law school. You may be, in the end, the bigger looser. You have just paid $991 to have the privilege to pay $100,000+ to attend a law school in order to enter a fading job market. The reason why you pay so much will more then likely make you even more upset. 9% of the algorithm used by U.S. New & World Report (the people that rank the law schools) is based on cost per pupil. That means that schools that charge more for law school get an edge on the law school rankings. A great system, which has allowed universities to pay for less profitable aspirations (new sports programs, fine arts, building projects) with the excess of law school funds.