When I appeared on the Down by Lawcast I supposedly said something along the lines of the cognitive deficiency that makes people score a 155 on the LSAT is the same deficiency that makes you view that 155 as a sign that law school is the right place for you. Honestly, I don’t remember exactly what I said because I was a couple drinks in and don’t listen to other shows when I’m on them. I have to listen to myself all day long anyways, why make it worse for me? If wouldn’t even listen to my own show if I didn’t have to the audio editing.
Well, apparently a few people took offense to that. Guess where they fell on the LSAT curve. If you were one of those people, here’s some math (ah! oh no! numbers is hard!) for you to consider:
The median score for the LSAT is around 151. So, let’s assume you take the LSAT, get a 158, see that you’re at about 77th percentile, and figure that’s pretty decent, you’ve got 17 percentile points between you and average.
Except then something weird happens between getting your score and going to law school, causing the median score to jump way up. Actually, two weird things.
First, some people won’t enroll in law school, and the people who don’t enroll are more likely to be on the low end of the spectrum than the high end. If everyone who got a 140 or lower didn’t enroll anywhere, the median score would go from 151 to 153, and your 77th percentile drops down to 73rd.
Now here’s the second strange thing that happens. Assume 100 people take the LSAT, 1 person gets a 127 or less, and 1 person gets a 172 or higher (those two numbers are the top and bottom 1%). The LSAT is offered four times a year, so at the end of a year, you’d expect 4 people with 172+ and 4 people with 127- right? If you said yes, you probably sucked on the LSAT.
At the end of the year, 4 people will have 172+, but only 1 or 2 people will have a 127-. Why? Because low scoring test takers are more likely to retake the exam. People who do well stop taking it.
How does this affect you? It means the part of the curve below you consists of a lot of clones, and they’re artificially propping you up. They’ll stop propping you up in law school and in real life, where they go back to only counting once.
Of course, some people with good scores won’t go to law school (maybe they’ll become doctors instead), and some people with high scores will retake the exam (because they want top 5, not just top 14). But, in general, people with lower scores are less likely to enroll, and more likely to retake the LSAT.
The LSAT is taken about 150,000 times a year, but law schools enroll only around 45,000 1Ls. Your 77th percentile that looked so hot before isn’t just dropping down to 73rd, but probably closer to 50th. If you started at the 50th percentile, you’re not safely in the bottom third.
So now, when you get your 158 on the LSAT, should you still be taking that as a sign you should go to law school? Probably not.
Of course, the LSAT pretty much only tests logical reasoning and reading comprehension, and if you’re not good at those skills, you’re not going to understand any of this, and you’re probably not going to understand why it’s a bad idea for you to go law school in the first place. After all, someone has to feed law tier four law school deans. If not you, then who?