
The View from the Top
The easiest way to see why you can't get into school X is to look at the
number of seats for mainstream applicants at that school or better schools
(as reported in the Official Guide, 2001 ed.), and the number of mainstream
applicants with certain index numbers. Here are the caveats:
 I've calculated the number of seats as total in the first year class minus
1/3 the total number of blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans. This
number may be a tad high, as there are often more minorities in the first
year class (because of either rising minority admission rates or higher than
average minority attrition).
 I've adjusted the state schools marked with an asterisk(*) to show the number
of nonresident mainstream seats. This is based on private interview
data collected several years ago, which may have changed.
 I've calculated the number of mainstream applicants from data published by
Law Services, showing the number of applicants with various gpa and LSAT
combinations, for 2001. I've then adjusted this
number by the reasonably expected increase for 2003, which is 20% more than
the 2001 applicant volumes. Then in 2009, I checked to make sure the data was still valid, and it's almost identical, so I'm leaving it up.
If you find your index number, using the formula Index = LSAT + (gpa x 10),
you can see where you are on the chart.
Of course, that's a very vague approximation. It doesn't allow for
quality of school, activities, recs, essays, and differing emphases on gpa
and LSAT in admissions formulas. But it gives you a rough idea of why
you can't get into school X  there are that many people who have more
impressive numbers than you!
Index # 
People 

School 
People 
Index # 
220 
1 

Yale 
150 
216 
219 
6 

Harvard 
617 
213 
218 
18 

Stanford 
759 
212 
217 
45 

Chicago 
925 
212 
216 
75 

Columbia 
1226 
211 
215 
112 

NYU 
1571 
210 
214 
175 

Virginia* 
1731 
210 
213 
243 

Berkeley* 
1851 
210 
212 
322 

Penn 
2064 
210 
211 
435 

Northwestern 
2240 
209 
210 
594 

Duke 
2433 
209 
209 
793 

Michigan* 
2613 
209 
208 
1073 

Cornell 
2778 
209 
207 
1388 

Georgetown 
3282 
208 
206 
1727 

205 
2090 
204 
2470 
203 
2890 
202 
3334 
201 
3804 
200 
4372 
Okay, numbers seem to put everyone off, so let's try this:

Suppose you have a 3.8 and a 170. Your index number is 208.

About 1000 people have an index number of 208. But about 2800 people have an index number higher than 208. So 3800 people have an index number of 208 or better.

The number of people enrolled at the top 14 law schools is 3300. So a 208 might get you into a "top ten" law school, but it might not.
