Law school applications rise

Better economic conditions may have led to the projected increase in the number of applicants.

Benjamin Farniok

Until he got an internship at a local law firm, Peter Economou didn’t know what he wanted to do when he came to the University of Minnesota.
 
The internship helped the political science senior and president of the Pre-Law Society student group discover his desire to work as a lawyer.
 
But first, he needs to apply to law schools.
 
Across the country, law schools are predicting a rise in applications for next year, according to a report released last month from Kaplan Test Prep, an organization that makes study materials to help students prepare for tests like the ACT and LSAT.
 
Eighty-eight percent of surveyed law school admissions officers predicted a rise in applications, which could be the result of better economic conditions, said Glen Stohr, director of content development for Kaplan’s pre-law programs.
 
Law schools and the legal market saw a sharp decline after the 2008 recession, which put an end to a high point in law school applications and enrollment, Stohr said.
 
Some students took up law school during the recession instead of immediately entering the job market, Stohr said, which drove up enrollment. But those graduates soon found themselves head-to-head with experienced attorneys who lost their jobs during the economic downturn.
 
The 186 University undergraduates who went on to apply to law schools across the country last year — a higher number than many other schools — still would only account for little more than half compared to the 345 applicants from the 2009-10 school year.
 
In an attempt to solve the problem of oversaturation, Stohr said schools began “right-sizing” their classes to offer fewer seats after the recession so graduating students would be more likely to find jobs. Some schools took additional steps such as reducing tuition or increasing financial aid to attract students with affordability, he said.
 
The University of Minnesota Law School had to reduce its class sizes as well, said David Wippman, dean of the school, adding that the University has not offered a public prediction on whether it will see more applications.
 
But he said the number of students taking the LSAT as undergraduates at the University has increased, and if the trend continues, the school would be likely to see more applicants.
 
“We are optimistic, but it is not certain, but we have seen upward trends in first-time LSAT takers,” Wippman said.
 
Though the school did not cut its tuition, the school allocated more money to financial aid and received more donations in recent years, which could beckon more students, Wippman said.
 
And last year, the University allocated $2.2 million to alleviate revenue loss due to low enrollment.
 
Now that the improved economy has allowed the law market to partially recover, more students are preparing to apply to law schools, Stohr said.
 
Peter Economou said he has noticed a change since he started working with the Pre-Law Society as a freshman.
 
Whereas a bleak job market had turned students hesitant in the past, he said people have become more enthusiastic about pursuing a degree in law.
 
“People are more gung-ho,” Economou said.
 
Students applying for law schools now may still face some difficulty in getting into schools, because a higher number of applicants translates to greater competition, Stohr said. That means students will have to contemplate whether or not to attend law school.
 
Stohr said this is exciting for the many schools, because more students means more choice and potentially better new students and lawyers.
 
“There will be more high-caliber grads and job seekers,” Stohr said.