In this post, we are going to take a look at dropout rates for law schools. Dropouts are significant because generally, they mean one or both of a couple things: either the student feels him or herself unequal to the challenge presented by the law school environment, or the prospect of mounting debt and a poor employment outlook compel the student to bail out. In either case, dropouts are left having paid a significant sum for no tangible benefit.

Needless to say, in an ideal system there would be few to no dropouts. That isn’t the system we have. Although one part of the law school system, schools with high median LSAT scores, is functioning well, with minimal attrition, the rear of the pack is not.

As law schools generally lowered admissions standards in the decade since the recession, dropout rates increased. Stephanie Ward of the ABA gives us a good breakdown of figures from recent years:

At law schools with median LSAT scores between 155 to 159, the average academic attrition rate for the 2014-2015 school year was 2.0 percent. For the 2015-2016 school year, it was 1.8 percent.

For law schools with median LSAT scores between 150 to 154, academic attrition for the 2014-2015 school year averaged out to 4.7 percent, and 4.6 percent for the 2015-2016 school year.

At law schools with median LSAT scores below 150 but above 145, academic attrition went from 12.7 percent for the 2014-2015 school year to 14.3 percent for the 2015-2016 school year.

And among law schools where the median LSAT score was 145 or lower, the average academic attrition rate for the 2015-2016 school year was 25.3 percent.

“Is sweet spot for avoiding academic attrition at law schools a median LSAT of at least 150?” ABA Journal, January 16, 2018

Although attrition is apparently stabilizing, these numbers should be of great concern to anyone thinking about attending a lower ranked school. An LSAT below 150 may be a good indicator that someone is not sufficiently likely to benefit from attending law school, as there is a high chance of getting nothing for the effort.

Taking a look at the data below, attrition is minimal through about the top 100 schools, then increases precipitously. Compare this list to our list of LSAT and GPA medians for ABA-approved schools, and you’ll see an incredibly strong correlation between lower medians and higher dropout rates.

Though the ABA has failed to take significant action so far, there has been extensive discussion of schools with unacceptably high dropout rates losing accreditation.

Law School1L Dropout Rate %
Arizona Summit65.31%
Florida Coastal School of Law38.68%
North Carolina Central28.92%
Thomas Jefferson School of Law26.51%
University of San Francisco23.78%
Capital University Law School23.27%
Widener University21.09%
Liberty University School of Law20.55%
Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School19.44%
Elon University School of Law18.84%
St. Thomas (Florida)17.84%
Florida A&M University Law17.57%
California Western School of Law17.49%
Ohio Northern University (Pettit)17.31%
Southwestern Law School17.27%
University of Dayton17.20%
Faulkner University16.90%
Nova Southeastern Law16.37%
University of Massachusetts–Dartmouth16.25%
Florida International University16.11%
University of Memphis (Humphreys)15.89%
Western State College of Law15.85%
Ave Maria School of Law15.46%
Howard University15.17%
Golden Gate University School of Law15.05%
Touro College Law Center14.69%
UNT Dallas14.42%
St. Mary’s University14.09%
Western Michigan University (Cooley)13.97%
South Texas College of Law13.85%
Appalachian School of Law13.70%
New York Law School13.26%
University of the Pacific (McGeorge)13.16%
Texas Tech University12.95%
Regent University School of Law12.90%
University of Arkansas—Little Rock12.86%
Northern Kentucky University12.84%
New England Law— Boston12.43%
University of the District of Columbia11.83%
Campbell University11.80%
Suffolk University11.76%
Syracuse University11.17%
Georgia State University11.05%
University of Missouri10.87%
Duquesne University10.81%
Mercer University (George)10.66%
Texas Southern University Law10.55%
University of South Dakota10.53%
Southern University Law Center10.50%
Concordia University School of Law10.42%
Barry University10.29%
Northern Illinois University10.20%
Widener University Delaware10.19%
University of Idaho9.91%
Belmont University College of Law9.82%
Oklahoma City University9.82%
University of Toledo9.78%
Texas A&M University9.42%
Inter American University Law9.28%
Seattle University9.14%
University of Akron8.81%
Southern Illinois University Carbondale8.77%
Washburn University8.77%
Charleston School of Law8.76%
University of Arkansas—Fayetteville8.40%
Mississippi College School of Law8.40%
Cleveland State University8.33%
University of San Diego8.33%
Pepperdine University8.28%
Case Western Reserve University8.21%
Seton Hall University8.12%
University of New Hampshire8.11%
Lincoln Memorial University8.00%
University of La Verne Law7.95%
University of Denver (Sturm)7.66%
Gonzaga University7.56%
University of Baltimore7.54%
Western New England University7.53%
Roger Williams University Law7.45%
Pace University6.85%
Santa Clara University6.82%
Hofstra University (Deane)6.80%
Albany Law School6.67%
Creighton University6.54%
University of Detroit Mercy6.54%
University of Kansas6.54%
Brooklyn Law School6.50%
Michigan State University6.39%
Chapman University (Fowler)5.99%
John Marshall Law School5.98%
Drexel University5.96%
Pennsylvania State University5.88%
Catholic University of America5.83%
Drake University5.83%
Illinois Institute of Technology (Chicago)5.68%
Quinnipiac University5.60%
LSU — Baton Rouge (Hebert)5.59%
Loyola Marymount University5.21%
Mitchell Hamline5.10%
University of Oregon4.86%
Marquette University4.84%
St. Louis University4.76%
Samford University (Cumberland)4.73%
University of South Carolina4.65%
Arizona State University (O’Connor)4.63%
University of Nebraska—Lincoln4.55%
Willamette University (Collins)4.55%
Loyola University New Orleans4.52%
University of Puerto Rico4.42%
University of Tulsa4.26%
University of Alabama4.03%
Pontifical Catholic (Puerto Rico)4.00%
University of California (Hastings)3.99%
George Mason University3.98%
Loyola University Chicago3.88%
Vermont Law School3.73%
Valparaiso University Law School3.57%
University of Mississippi3.54%
University of Maine3.53%
Stetson University3.37%
Southern Methodist University3.37%
University of Illinois Law3.27%
Yeshiva University (Cardozo)3.26%
Ohio State University (Moritz)3.26%
DePaul University3.21%
Baylor University2.99%
Brigham Young University (Clark)2.97%
University of Nevada—Las Vegas2.86%
University of Louisville (Brandeis)2.84%
SUNY Buffalo Law School2.78%
Temple University (Beasley)2.69%
Washington University at St. Louis2.67%
University of Kentucky2.65%
University of California—Davis2.65%
University of Georgia2.65%
University of Oklahoma2.52%
University of Tennessee—Knoxville2.44%
Washington and Lee University2.44%
University of California—Los Angeles2.38%
University of North Carolina2.35%
Villanova University2.29%
George Washington University2.21%
University of Utah (Quinney)2.20%
University of Hawaii2.13%
University of Pittsburgh2.13%
Emory University2.10%
University of Cincinnati2.08%
Indiana University—Indianapolis2.08%
University of Virginia1.88%
University of Miami1.86%
Indiana University—Bloomington1.85%
West Virginia University1.83%
University of Richmond1.74%
Florida State University1.68%
University of Missouri1.64%
University of Southern California1.60%
University of Minnesota1.53%
University of Iowa1.53%
Tulane University1.44%
Harvard University1.43%
University of Wyoming1.39%
Georgetown University1.37%
Penn State Dickinson1.37%
University of St. Thomas1.37%
Wayne State University1.36%
University of Florida1.33%
University of Wisconsin1.32%
University of California—Berkeley1.32%
University of California — Irvine1.26%
University of Arizona1.25%
University of Michigan1.25%
Fordham University1.22%
St. John’s University1.20%
Stanford University1.11%
University of Colorado1.05%
University of Notre Dame1.01%
University of Maryland 0.97%
New York University0.94%
University of Pennsylvania0.82%
Boston College0.79%
American University (D.C.)0.72%
University of Connecticut0.69%
University of Texas—Austin0.65%
Wake Forest University0.64%
University of Washington0.60%
Lewis & Clark Law0.59%
William and Mary0.54%
University of Houston0.44%
Boston University0.42%
Columbia University0.26%
University of Chicago0.00%
Cornell University0.00%
Duke University0.00%
University of Montana0.00%
University of New Mexico0.00%
University of North Dakota0.00%
Northeastern University0.00%
Northwestern University0.00%
Vanderbilt University0.00%
Yale University0.00%

University of Chicago, J.D., 2012 Ready to Kickstart your LSAT Prep? Join the LSAT Mastermind Study Group


  1. 5-23-2021

    This is a very informative article which prospective law students should look into when they are considering which ABA-approved law schools to apply to. It would be interesting to see which law schools have structured academic support programs in their schools for students, particularly 1ls, and if so, what is the correlation with attrition rates. Also, is there any distinction made between part-time (evening) and full-time (day) students? Finally, is there any more recent data for 2020?

    Keep up the good work!

    Professor Stephen R. Rolandi, MPA
    Larchmont, New York

  2. The question is what the ABA should do – if anything. Remember that the ABA is known to put all sorts of burdens on law schools that simply drive up the costs. When you threaten a school with probation because their law school building is not new enough or because they use too many adjunct professors even though their bar pass rates are higher than other schools in the same area, you are probably not focusing as much attention as the quality of teaching as you should be. (My experience was that adjuncts actually knew the law – particularly in specialized areas – and were often better teachers) Thomas Sowell has actually done a pretty stinging critique of the ABA’s accreditation process and provides plenty of evidence that it is more anticompetitive than ensuring quality education.

    Perhaps requiring law schools to post their attrition rates should be required. I, for one, am reluctant to prevent schools from offering those who did not do as well on the LSAT a chance to fulfill their dream, as long as the risks are transparent. Require them to disclose attrition rate, (real) legal employment rates following graduation and then let the customer decide. Most attorneys who have practiced any length of time will know lawyers who succeeded despite going to lower end law schools. I have two neighbors who are both very successful attorneys. Both went to law schools with attrition rates above 15%. We have many Ivy league attorneys in our community who make considerably less than these two.

    Full disclosure – yes. Meddling by the ABA – No.

Leave A Reply