Daniel J. Sullivan, Esq.
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Sullivan Law School Consulting Services Blog

Sure You Want to go to Law School? Bar Passage Rates and Placement

One of the services I provide to clients who want it is advice on whether to even try to get admitted to law school. In other words, is law school for you?  Given the condition of the legal market, the increasing costs of law school and the recent lowering of admission standards to attract more law students, whether one should go to law school at all has become a hot topic.


Two recent articles address this very issue. The first, in U.S. News & World Report, is entitled “Understand What Law School Bar Passage Rates Mean For Applicants.”  It suggests that before one consider a particular school, one examine the school’s bar passage rate.  I am quoted in the article at some length. The second, in The New York Times, is entitled “Study Cites Lower Standards in Law School Admissions.” It explores the potential of unemployment for some law school graduates who entered law school under easing standards but never had the skill ultimately to pass the bar exam or to gain employment in a law-related job.


The issue for these authors then, put less politely than I did in my opening sentences, is are you really right for law school? The authors, alas, are correct: you can get admitted to law school today, and graduate, without any hope of passing the bar exam or finding meaningful employment. In those cases, you shouldn’t go.


The Times put its finger on (actually in the eye of) those cases: you should not go if you scored less than 150 on the LSAT.  They’re right (actually my red flag point is the LSAT median, which is usually about 151 or 152).  If you are not among the top 50% of those taking the LSAT then statistically you are probably ill-equipped to undergo the rigors of law school, pass the bar exam, and get a job in a very tight legal market — but not too ill-equipped to get admitted in the first place, which is the very problem. You are at that point very much in a “rock-meet-hard-place” situation. Forget law school.  Instead, go be someone that lawyers work for!


By the way, there’s no shame in not getting in the top 50% on the LSAT. Remember, like the SAT, the LSAT measures your ability not in relation to some standard, but as compared on a curve with all others taking the test.  With the SAT, that meant every 17 year old with a pulse.  With the LSAT, you are measured only against that small subset of those that took the SAT who did well enough to get admitted to college, and probably to a very good one, and then did well enough in that college that they thought it a serious possibility that they could get admitted to law school.  I hate to sound elitist, but that’s an elite group! If it’s any consolation, congratulations on being one of their number.