True. But, there's a baseline problem: it's not just top students avoiding law school; all students are avoiding law school. The relevant question is, are top university graduates avoiding law school at a higher rate?
Intuitively, one would expect that top graduates would avoid law school at a higher rate. Students who attend elite universities have more options at their disposal upon graduation; the prospect of law school may be less attractive given a bevy of other sound options. Indeed, some have noted that a law degree provides upward mobility--and, presumably, there's less need for such mobility if one already has an elite undergraduate degree.
I looked at a slightly different metric than Mr. Lee to answer the question. Using LSAC data of the top 240 undergraduate "feeder schools," I compared data for 25 "elite" institutions, all top-20 schools in the U.S. News & World Report National Universities or National Liberal Arts Colleges rankings (Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Chicago, Stanford, Pennsylvania, Duke, Dartmouth, Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, Brown, Washington University, Cornell, Vanderbilt, Rice, Notre Dame, Cal, Emory, Georgetown; Amherst, Wellesley, Washington & Lee, Wesleyan, Colgate).
Since 2008-2009, law school applicants from this group of colleges declined 39.7%, from 7169 to 4326. It declined 13.4% since 2011-2012, from 4995 applicants.
For the other 215 law schools, the decline since 2008-2009 was not as steep: it was a 29.2% decline, from 46,379 applicants to 32,833. It declined 12.6% since 2011-2012, from 37,574--a decline much closer to the elite group of colleges year-over-year.
Another way of measuring the decline is the rate of decline. Was the rate of decline worse in from 2010-2011, or worse from 2011-2012?
For 132 institutions, the rate of decline in 2010-2011 was worse than 2011-2012, including 16 of the "elite" institutions. (For these schools, there was a slower rate of decline in the most recent application cycle, or more improvement.) For the other 108 institutions, the rate of decline in 2011-2012 was worse than 2010-2011, including 9 of the "elite" institutions. (For these schools, there was a faster rate of decline in the most recent applicant cycle, or less improvement.)
It's something of a mixed bag, then--yes, elite undergraduates are avoiding law school, and yes, it's at a higher clip than other feeder institutions, but in the most recent cycle it's not dramatically higher than other schools year-over-year, and the rate of decline is slowing more quickly at elite institutions.
Further, Jerry Organ looks at the data and emphasizes how much scores have declined among matriculants in the entering class of 2013 over the class of 2012. Fewer applicants have translated into fewer high LSAT scores, and schools have not been shrinking their class sizes to accommodate.
But, it's important to note an unmentioned trend this cycle: the best applicants are applying at a higher rate than the last couple of cycles, and the worst applicants are applying at a lower rate.
Consider the data from 2012, at a point late in the cycle. Applicants with scores over 170 had dropped nearly 20%; applicants with scores below 145 had dropped just about 5%. And the headline was, "The Wrong People Have Stopped Applying to Law School."
Or, consider the data from 2013, at a point slightly earlier in the cycle. There was around a 25% decline in applicants with scores over 170; the decline was lowest among applicants with scores under 140.
But the data from 2014 tells a dramatically different story. From Mike Spivey, applicants with scores from 175 to 180 are up--up--6.0% Applicants with scores from 170 to 174 are up--up--1.2%. The highest applicant decline as of February 21? Below 140, with a 21.5% decline.
Granted, the universe of 175-and-up applicants is small to begin with, only several hundred. And yes, applicants may now retake the LSAT as many times as they want, and schools are only required to report the highest score, which may skew the usefulness of the metric.
But it does reflect that, this year, at least, the "brain drain" is no more among 170-and-up applicants (assuming, of course, they actually matriculate).