A red flag is signaling the potential deterioration of quality at a significant number of law schools. LSAT medians rise and fall by a point or two over time at many law schools, usually in conjunction with changes in the size of the overall applicant pool and the standing of a particular school. That in itself is not a concern—problems arise, however, when law schools accept students who would not have gained admission in years past. Applicants with low LSAT/GPA scores, in particular, have a higher risk of failing out and a higher risk of not passing the bar exam.
Rapidly rising acceptance rates provide ample reason to worry. A decade ago, for the entering class of 2003, only 4 law schools accepted 50% or more of their applicants (the highest at 55.4%).
2011 showed deterioration at the worst levels of acceptance rates. A total of 42 law schools accepted 50% or more of their applicants, broken down as follows: 29 schools accepted between 50% and 59%; 7 schools accepted between 60% and 69%; 5 schools accepted between 70% and 79%; one law school accepted 80.1% (Cooley).
2012 took a big step down in selectivity: 82law schools accepted 50% or more of their applicants—that’s nearly double the previous year, amounting to about 40% of accredited law schools. Among these law schools, 43 accepted between 50% and 59% of applicants; 23 accepted between 60% and 69%; 13 law schools accepted between 70% and 79%; and 3 accepted more than 80%. The highest in the country was New England School of Law, which accepted 89%–nine out of ten people who applied to NESL last year got in. (Vermont and Phoenix also topped 80%.)