Interest in Law School up

Applications to the Law School jumped 22.5 percent for this year’s incoming class.

Liala Helal

At a time when law schools are facing a nationwide decrease in numbers of applicants, the University’s Law School stands out from the crowd.

Applications to the Law School jumped 22.5 percent for this year’s incoming class. The Law School launched a more vigorous recruitment process by reaching out to more students and schools and by attending recruitment fairs across the country.

“We’re trying to bring in the highest quality and most diverse student body possible,” said Joan Howland, associate dean of the Law School and chairwoman of the school’s Admissions Committee.

A survey by the National Law Journal showed an overall drop of 2 percent in applications for law schools that participated. Out of the 19 schools surveyed, the University of Minnesota had the greatest increase.

An increasing national awareness of the Law School’s reputation was also a factor in the number of applicants, Howland said.

“Students all over the country know that if they come here, they will be employable when they graduate,” she said.

First-year law student Elise Chahla said she was not concerned about employment.

“I have faith that all will come together well,” she said.

Chahla, who said she primarily looked at top 20 law schools, chose the University because of in-state tuition, the quality of the school and the abundance of friends and family she has in the state.

Although she is just beginning law school, Chahla said she does not regret her choice.

“It strikes me very immediately that it’s a good school,” she said.

Already one of the nation’s top 20 law schools, the University’s Law School sees an even higher ranking in the future as recruitment continues, said Julie Tigges, interim director of admissions at the Law School.

“In order to improve our standings, one of the important factors is larger number of applicants,” she said.

In doing so, the Law School supports the University’s initiatives of becoming one of the top research institutions in the country, Howland said.

“As a unit within the broader University, we want to be as strong as possible,” she said, “It’s not something that’s just for us, but for the entire University.”

Howland said Alex Johnson, dean of the Law School, emphasizes the goals of attracting students from Minnesota and individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Compared with last year, the number of black and African-American students admitted to the Law School more than doubled this year, Tigges said.

“It was specifically a goal of the dean’s, and he hopes to improve on that for next year as well,” Tigges said.

Another factor that seems to be attracting students is the Law School’s environment, Tigges said.

The stereotype of law schools as “cutthroat” and “serious” among students does not apply to Minnesota, she said. Instead, students are very supportive of one another.

“It’s a ‘Minnesota nice’ thing,” Tigges said.

Chahla noticed this from the moment she stepped into the Law School.

“What struck and surprised me was the level of sociability and camaraderie,” she said, “It was really something that echoed.”

“It’s something I find really reassuring,” she added.

First-year law student Bryan Browning, who is from Michigan, was impressed he was able to meet with the University of Minnesota Law School dean, Alex Johnson, at a law school forum in Chicago. Not many deans attend those forums, he said.

Browning chose the University’s Law School because of its national reputation and good financial aid package, he said. He was also impressed with his visit.

“Besides the fact that it was freezing outside, the law library blew me away the first time I saw it,” he said.

Browning said he got along very well with the student ambassadors.

“They made me understand what ‘Minnesota nice’ means,” he said.

As he begins his studies, he is content with his choice.

“It’s one of the few law schools that you can go to and know that its name is going to mean something to more than just people in Minnesota,” he said.