Fewer LSAT Takers and the Effect on Law Schools

To the dismay of many law school deans and admissions counselors, the numbers continue to show that fewer students are taking the LSAT. This year, 33,673 sat for the law school entrance exam, representing an 11% decline from the 37,780 who took the test last year. While this is slightly less than the 16% decline experienced in 2012, this contributes to an overall decline of 45% from 2009 when a record 60,746 sat for the exam.

This marks the fourth straight year of decline, which in a recent article Karen Sloan of the National Law Journal suggests has “intensified worries that a turnaround in the demand for legal education remains out of sight”. Whether that proves to be true remains to be seen. However, what is clear is that law schools are now being met with the reality of smaller student applicant pools. This in turn requires law school deans and other academic leaders to make difficult decisions regarding enrollment and the school’s overall profile.

Imagine the pressure and complex considerations facing law school leadership. To name a few:

  • Should we lower our overall admissions standards? Or reduce our class sizes?
  • If we lower our standards, how will it affect our rank and our students’ job prospects?
  • What are students’ job prospects given the current climate and how can we adapt?
  • If we reduce class sizes, how will we make up for the losses in tuition revenue?
  • As the landscape shifts, how can we keep our: professors? resources? reputation?

LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs are both key components of the all-important law school rankings. Thus, schools that elect to weaken admissions standards risk compromising their school’s overall profile and ranking, while schools that reduce class sizes will face difficult budget constraints. According to Sloan, “plenty of schools have done a bit of both.” It will be interesting to see which ways certain law schools lean as the legal landscape continues to shift. In the midst of all the uncertainty, one thing is clear: prospective students are increasingly wary of long-term job prospects in the legal industry.

Which Firms Do GCs Use?

Ever wonder which firms GCs think of and use most often? To follow up on our recent article “Corporate America: Who Represents Who?“, a corresponding NLJ report sheds some additional light by providing an overall ranking of firms among Fortune 100 GCs when surveyed about the firms they use most often. The rankings are certainly not perfect nor are they exhaustive. For example, they do not include metrics such as the number of cases handled, amount of legal spend, length of relationship, etc. However, they do provide a good idea of which firms have strong brand recognition among GCs and corporate execs at some of the world’s strongest companies.

The chart below lists the top 10 firms as ranked in the report, and the rankings were compiled based on how often firms were mentioned by GCs in the areas of contracts, torts, labor, IP, and patents. Not surprisingly, L&E shops did very well, accounting for the top 3 in the overall rankings:

RANK   FIRM                           MENTIONS        PPP                 AMLAW RANK
1          Ogletree Deakins           170                   $535,000           97
2          Littler Mendelson           162                   $500,000           64
3          Jackson Lewis              118                   $605,000           82
4          Morgan Lewis                110                   $1,550,000        12
5          Seyfarth Shaw               86                     $910,000           60
6          Baker Donelson             64                     $490,000           114
7          Morris Nichols               61                     —                      —
T-8        Bryan Cave                   53                     $745,000           55
T-8        McGuireWoods             53                     $945,000           51
T-8        Greenberg Traurig          53                     $1,360,000        11

The only non-AmLaw 200 firm making the top 10 is Delaware-based Morris Nichols, an 83 lawyer shop mentioned in 50 of its 61 instances in the area of patents.

It is also interesting to note the somewhat wide distribution of firms in terms of profits per partner and AmLaw rankings. In fact, 8 of the top 10 boast a PPP below $1,000,000 and an average AmLaw rank of 65. This seems to suggest something almost counterintuitive, though it makes sense considered in light of the post-recession economy—just because a firm is ranked highly or is highly profitable, that does not necessarily translate into recognition or use among Fortune 500 GCs. Accordingly, what it does confirm is the importance of perception in today’s economy—not necessarily in terms of profits or ranking, but in having a reputation of strength in certain areas.