March 2023 / Episode 5 / Under 10 minutes
New Project Focused on LSAT Performance
Welcome to the Keeping Up to DataSM podcast, a new space in which we discuss, analyze, and contextualize trends and perspectives in the current law school admission cycle by taking a deeper dive into the most up-to-date data and making sense of the complicated world of legal education.
SUSAN KRINSKY: Welcome back to Keeping Up to Data. I'm Susan Krinsky, LSAC's Executive Vice President for Operations and Chief of Staff.
As of the middle of March, we have slightly more than 80% of the applications we expect to see by the end of this cycle, just over 357,000, about 3.1% fewer than last year at this time. So, the gap between last year and this year continues to narrow. As of today, 77 schools are showing increases in applications. That's 10 more than the last time we spoke. 116 are seeing decreases and five are showing no change.
Overall, and in aggregate, schools in the Midwest are seeing a 1.4% increase in applications, with all other regions showing decreases. Again, in aggregate, schools in the Mountain West and Northwest are experiencing the largest decreases in application volume. As of today, there are over 49,000 applicants to US law schools this year, as compared to over 51,000 last year. The number of applicants compared to last year at this time is down by just under 1500 individuals. That's about a 2.9% decrease.
Just over 41% of this year's applicants identify as persons of color more than last year's percentage. I should also note that we are now, finally, counting applicants who identify themselves as Middle Eastern and North African as persons of color and no longer as Caucasian.
Applicants identifying as female are down by 1.5%. Applicants identifying as male are down by 5.2%. And those identifying as gender diverse are up by 6.6%. Overall, applicants identifying as female represent 56.7% of this year's applicant pool.
As always, you can find the latest applicant trends and numbers on our website, which is updated daily, 365 days a year.
Now, I am very happy to welcome LSAC's Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Angela Winfield. I invited Angela to join us today to talk about the Equity Accelerator, a focused research organization based at Indiana University.
Angela, welcome to Keeping Up to Data. Can you tell us about the project and what prompted it?
ANGELA WINFIELD: Yeah, Susan. I'm really happy to share with you why we're doing this project and what prompted it.
Most people know that the LSAT is a very strong predictor of first year law school performance, and we at LSAC do an incredible job of making sure that the test itself is not biased. We also do a tremendous amount of work in terms of providing resources and support in education, through LawHub and Law school Success, and other programs, to help support individuals on their Law school journey.
However, despite all of those efforts, we still know that there are environmental and systemic issues that result in folks not always being able to put their best foot forward. And quite frankly, the score gap. And the score gap is not something that LSAC caused. It's due to systemic issues. But nonetheless, we want to do more. We want to try to put programs into place so that folks, regardless of their identity, can perform their absolute best on test day. And we did our research, because we're trying to really use research and data to inform our DEI programs, and we found the work that Equity Accelerator has done in the past, including some work that they've done with the California Bar Exam, and we were really impressed and intrigued by it and wanted to see if we can get some results similar with the LSAT.
SUSAN: What else can you tell us about the work the Equity Accelerator team did with regard to the California Bar Exam? And I'm particularly interested in what got us so excited to collaborate with them on this project.
ANGELA: The project with the California Bar Exam used the same researchers in Equity Accelerator. They actually did it through a different project called MILE, Mindsets in Legal Education, but the researchers on that are the same researchers with Equity Accelerator. And what they did when they worked with the California Bar Exam is, they learned from and interviewed and surveyed thousands of California Bar Exam takers to better understand what they were doing to prepare for the exam, what their experience was, what they were thinking and feeling, to identify where the barriers were. And they developed a custom program for students who were taking the Bar Exam for all students.
And what they saw after they implemented this program was anywhere between a 6.8 to a 9.6 percentage point increase in Bar passage rates, which was incredible. And another way to look at it is that, for folks who participated in this Bar Exam project that they put together, and then went on to pass the Bar Exam, one in six of those individuals, so about 16%, would not have otherwise passed. So, based on statistical history, one in six would not have passed without that program. And we thought that was pretty remarkable. And any movement, and especially that size of movement, if we can get that on our test, the LSAT, we thought it would be worthwhile to see if we could develop something.
SUSAN: That is indeed exciting.
Where are we right now with the project? And when do you anticipate being able to offer a formal program?
ANGELA: Right now, we are, in the early days. In March, we launched a survey to 30,000 individuals who are registered for Fall LSAT administrations, and we are going to gather their data and develop this custom-tailored program based on the needs of test takers. And we are hoping to launch a program sometime in 2024. So, it is an aggressive timeframe to do this type of work and get it launched, but we are excited and motivated and dedicated, and we're going to do the best that we can to get it out.
SUSAN: Where can people go to learn more and get updates as this project progresses?
ANGELA: If you want to learn more about what we're doing, and if you want to stay up to date on all of that, I encourage you to go to lsac.org and just search for Equity Accelerator. You could also go and look under the Law school resources tab, and there'll be information there about the project, where it stands now, and where it's going. That's where all the updates will be.
SUSAN: I know everybody is very excited about this project at LSAC. And now, I hope everybody listening to this podcast is excited.
Is there anything else you'd like to share about this?
What I'd like to share, other than the excitement and enthusiasm for this project, is just to say that it has been an absolute pleasure to live out LSAC's values. It's really exciting and gratifying to see how we are actually taking what we say about being the organization that supports, encourages, diverse talent and really developing programs that reflect that.
The other thing that I will say is this is completely in alignment with our DEI strategic goals, and how we're going to embed DEI throughout all of our existing programs. And it's just really exciting to see this work and to see the collaboration that we're having within LSAC, and also with organizations outside of LSAC.
SUSAN: Angela, thank you so much for being here today, and particularly thank you for talking about such an exciting project, and one that really is going to have a concrete effect on our pipeline.
ANGELA: Thank you, Susan.
SUSAN: To our listeners, thank you for joining us at Keeping Up to Data. We look forward to your joining our next episode when we will continue to take a close look at the data from the current admissions cycle. Until next time, stay well.
Thank you for joining us. Keeping Up to DataSM is a production of LSAC. If you want to learn more about the current law school admission cycle and the latest trends and news, visit us at LSAC.org.