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Why Aren't STEM Majors Going to Law School?

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

What is it with lawyers and math?

It's one of the oldest jokes in the profession that lawyers went to law school because they were no good at math. As it turns out, it's no joke.

According to statistics, math students score the highest on law school admission tests but relatively few go to law school. At a time when law school admissions are down, it is an unsettling fact that the smartest students are going into other professions.

A Brain Drain

Robert Anderson, a professor at Pepperdine University School of Law, made the observation recently on his blog. He compiled information on undergraduate majors, grade point averages, and law school admission tests.

On average, the students who majored in math, physics, and biomedical engineering scored 160 or higher on the LSAT. Those who majored in political science and other social sciences averaged below 155.

"We are sorely under-represented in people with quantitative and science backgrounds," Anderson said in an interview. "It's harming our law schools and draining us of the intellectual rigor that could otherwise be there, and it's reducing our students' employment prospects."

On his blog, Anderson said the results also show a bias toward higher-GPA majors. Law schools end up admitting students based on their GPA who do not perform as well on the LSAT, he said.

LSAT Scores Down

Paul Caron, editor of TaxProf Blog, said the number of applicants with LSAT scores between 175 and 180 dropped 23 percent last year. It was the biggest drop in any group of the test takers in almost two decades.

"The story could be that better-credentialed college graduates are turning away from going to law school, because they feel they have other opportunities that they feel are more attractive," Caron told the ABA Journal.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to put the numbers together: law school enrollments down; top students are out; legal education is in trouble.

"For several years, legal education has taken a pounding," Caron said. "It's not providing the kinds of opportunities it provided to students in the past."

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