Law School Applications On The Rise

By Staff

March 19, 2009

Despite nationwide cutbacks and layoffs in the legal field, law school applications are increasing.

The Wall Street Journal reports that at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, law school applications rose 29 percent this year over 2008, and both Yale Law School and the University of Texas School of Law reported an 8 percent increase in applications. Throughout the country, the total number of law school applicants went up by 2 percent over last year.

ABA Journal noted the same phenomenon last month, when North Carolina's Duke University School of Law reported a 4 percent increase in applications. Similarly, law school applications at the University of Pennsylvania Law School increased by 6 percent.

Much like the nationwide surge in graduate school applicants, the phenomenon reflects a desire by college graduates to seek a haven from the economy by pursuing higher education, with the hope that the job market will improve by the time they graduate.

But William Henderson, a professor at Indiana University's Maurer School of Law, told The Wall Street Journal that law school is not necessarily a safe career choice anymore. Many large corporate firms experiencing layoffs may never return to their prior size as a result of a reduction of business in the investment banking industry. Moreover, many clients are simply fed up with high legal rates.

"There are very few schools that can guarantee students that they'll find a high-paying corporate job," Henderson cautioned, noting that the hefty price tag for law school should give students pause. "Is it really worth going $120,000 or $140,000 more into debt?" he asked.

Claire Arnett, a senior at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, told The Wall Street Journal that she decided to apply to law school after the economic climate began to change and she feared that she would not be able to find a job. She said that she believes a law degree is useful in a variety of fields and is therefore a sound investment in her future employment, regardless of whether or not she chooses to practice.

"As compared to other graduate programs, [law school] is more analytically rigorous and touches more areas of society," agreed Paul Berman, dean of Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.

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