One of the best kept law school secrets is out. Law schools poach students from other law schools. Known widely throughout law school campuses nationwide, it is not uncommon for students from lower-ranked schools to transfer “up” to higher-ranked schools. Now the American Bar Association has the data to back up that theory.
The reasoning is plausible. LSAT scores are meant to predict first-year law school success. If a student performs poorly on the LSAT, it is unlikely they will receive admission (much less, scholarship money) to top schools. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t succeed in the first year. The test is just a predictor.
For an example, let’s take Southern Methodist University Law School (ranked 42nd) and the University of Texas School of Law (ranked 15th). Think hypothetically for a few moments. Both schools are in Texas but one is clearly ranked higher than the other. LSAT scores are down. There are less highly qualified students considering law school. Texas accepts 15% fewer students than normal. After the first year, Texas wants to make up for the 15% fewer students they accepted. First-year students from SMU want to go to a higher-ranked school. Texas has openings. Those SMU students go despite Texas offering zero scholarships to them. Texas generates revenue from the transfer students paying full-tuition without having lower median LSAT scores like they would have if they’d accepted lesser-qualified students for first year admission.
Last week, American University accused George Washington University of poaching after losing 55 of its first year students to George Washington. The reason why this is new is because, for the first time ever, the ABA requires schools to report where their transfers are coming from if they admit more than five transfer students. According to the data, Georgetown University Law Center accepted a whopping 113 transfer students, nearly double that of Arizona State, which ranked second in the most transfer students at 66. Berkeley, Columbia and Harvard took 55, 46 and 33, respectively.
University of St. Thomas Law professor Jerry Organ says it is hard to believe these schools are taking in the same quality of students they would have for first year admission. He believes transfers are watering down those top schools and, since LSAT scores are not reported past the first year, it is not hurting them in that portion of many rankings.
Source: Inside Higher Ed
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