Researching Law Schools: Harnessing the Power of ABA 509 Reports

Are you a pre-law student who is in the process of applying to law school, but not sure how get started with compiling your school list? 

Digging deeper into individual law schools’ websites is a good start, but it can be difficult to find the information you need to make an informed decision. This is where the ABA 509 reports come in! 

What are the ABA 509 reports? 

The ABA Standard 509 reports are submitted by accredited law schools to the ABA (American Bar Association) each year. They contain detailed information about each law school’s admitted class, such as the acceptance rate, 75/50/25 percentiles of admitted students’ LSAT/GPA/GRE* (*if the law school accepts GRE scores), and much more. 

You can find the 509 reports on the ABA’s website here. To view a law school’s 509 report for a given year, select the year and school from the drop-down list. The report will be generated as a downloadable PDF. 

What information should I keep an eye out for? 

  1. First Year Class 

This information is displayed on the first page of the report and contains the key admissions statistics that most prospective students want to know: What are the 75/50/25 percentile GPA and LSAT scores? What is the acceptance rate? How many students matriculated?

Knowing this, you will be able to identify which percentile your GPA and LSAT score would be at a given school, which allows you to determine the baseline competitiveness of your application. However, law schools perform a holistic review and these numbers are not the end-all-be-all of your admissions odds.  

  1. Race and Gender

You can view the race and gender data for L1, L2, and L3 students in a separate table below the First Year Class data. This information is self-reported by the applicants. The column abbreviations represent: T = Total, M = Men, W = Women, AGI = Additional Gender Identity, PNR = Prefer Not to Respond. 

You can also view similar data for the school’s faculty. While this section is not as comprehensive as the student data, it can still provide a snapshot into the diversity of a law school’s faculty – the numbers of male/female, people of color, and full time/non-full-time faculty members are visible.  

  1. Tuition and Fees, Living Expenses, & Grants and Scholarships

While these tables are separate, they all provide valuable insight into a school’s affordability, particularly the grants and scholarships section. You can view the total number of grant recipients, along with the number of students whose funding covers less than half, half to full, and full tuition costs. You can also see the 75/50/25 percentile grant amounts. Note that need-based aid is not included here. 

These financial sections can help you understand a law school’s scholarship and grant funding structure, your chances of earning a scholarship, and the amount you may receive. After acceptance, you can use this data to determine if you received a competitive scholarship offer from a given school.  

  1. Attrition

Toward the bottom of the report, you’ll see the attrition data presented in the same format as the race and gender data. Hopefully, for your top school, this area will be full of zeroes! A high attrition rate can be a red flag. 

Attrition is separated into two categories: academic and other. Academic attrition refers to students who discontinued their law education while they were not in good academic standing. The other category is a catch-all for students who discontinued their law education for reasons unrelated to their academic standing, transferring, or taking a leave of absence for 1 year or less. 

  1. Transfers

In this table, you can view the number of students who transferred in and out during a given year. This can be helpful to know, since a high number of transfers out can potentially mean that students are unhappy with their experience. 

While these numbers can serve as a useful starting point, we encourage prospective applicants to research law programs of interest on a deeper level (such as through attending open houses, info sessions, and campus visits) to determine if a school is a good fit for their personal and professional goals.

By Stacy Li
Stacy Li Associate Director, Graduate School Advising