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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

California Law School Academic Attrition Rates
Gail Heriot

This is interesting.  It is a chart of the 2005 First-Year J.D. Attrition Rates at California's ABA-Approved Law Schools.  The first number is overall attrition rate (which includes transfers), and the second number is academic attrition.

  1. UC-Davis -- 0.5%--0.0%
  2. Stanford-- 0.6%--0.0%
  3. UC-Berkeley -- 1.1%--0.0%
  4. UC Hastings -- 3.0%--1.2%
  5. UCLA -- 5.2%--0.0%
  6. USC -- 5.4%--1.5%
  7. University of San Diego -- 8.3%--1.8%
  8. Chapman -- 8.8%--2.2%
  9. Loyola -- 10.8%--4.2%
  10. Santa Clara -- 11.9%--6.9%
  11. Pepperdine -- 12.6%--5.5%
  12. McGeorge -- 13.1%--8.1%
  13. Thomas Jefferson --13.4%--6.7%
  14. Southwestern -- 17.5%--8.3%
  15. USF -- 18.3%--8%
  16. Western State -- 18.5%--2.8%
  17. Golden Gate -- 28.7%--16.6%
  18. Cal. Western -- 29.6%--10.3%
  19. Whittier -- 31.0% --14.9%

I don't know how many in the overall attrition rate are drop outs and how many are transfers.  But I do know that real drop-outs (as opposed to transfers) tend to be students who are doing poorly. (The research of Richard Sander has shown that financial difficulties play only a minor role in causing drop outs, although, of course, there are exceptions.)  But there are lots of reasons that a student might do poorly in his or her first year of law school.  Some students may be talented in many other ways, but don't have a particular aptitude for law.  (I've had a few cases of students with extremely subtle minds who just don't grasp law.) Others don't enjoy it and therefore can't seem to apply themselves.  Whatever the source of the problem, it is sometimes better to leave law school after only one year, than to go further into debt and eventually fail the bar examination (or worse yet, pass it and be miserable for the rest of their lives). 

Law school grades are an excellent predictor of the likelihood of first-time taker bar passage.  Contrary to popular belief, they are a better predictor than prestige of law school.  About 98% of elite law school graduates in the top half of their class pass the bar exam on their first attempt.  Only 67% of elite law school graduates in the bottom 10% of their class do.  At the bottom tier of law schools, 82% of the members of the top half of the class pass on their first try, as contrasted with only 16% of those in the bottom 10%.   The bottom decile is not a good place to be at any law school.                                                                          

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Gail Heriot


Is it possible to corelate the attrition rate to the individual school's faithfullness in eliminating AA admissions?

Your last point, by the way, is a good reason to avoid AA in law school admissions. Getting into a better school than one is qualified for is not a beneficial thing.

Posted by: km | Jun 14, 2007 10:19:28 AM

Having talked a lot with the faculty about these rates back in the day, I think USD's academic rate is about right. More than USC, UCLA, etc. Less than Chapman. Although, Loyola and Pepperdine's rates seem astoundingly high to me.

Posted by: Timotheus | Jun 14, 2007 6:52:42 PM

Wow, there are too many law schools in California.

Posted by: joe | Jun 17, 2007 8:06:52 AM

Look at the attrition rate of some of those schools. That should be illegal! -- but who is going to question a law school? Do the students that apply to these schools know that there's a built-in bias to "weed" them out? Is this published in their propaganda catalogs? Do these schools grade students based on their LSAT scores? -- so as they are weeded out, they are told "well your poor LSAT score is a predictor of how you would have done."

I would like to lobby the California state legislature to force law schools to publish attrition rates on the front of their catalogs!

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