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No job? More law school

BY MICHELLE BORYCA | JULY 10, 2009 7:10 AM

Law-school admissions offices are facing a bittersweet paradox.

While the economy may be down, unemployed college graduates’ interest in postgraduate education is taking off.

“Generally, we do well when people are miserable,” said Collins Byrd, the assistant dean in charge of admissions at the UI College of Law.

When there is a decline in the economy, students tend to go to law school immediately after receiving their undergraduate degree, he said.

Furthermore, experts have noted financial rewards, such as lawyers’ salaries, are a key motivator to go back to school, trumping ideals such as helping people or delivering justice.

Byrd said he feels the students’ motives — to make more money later or stay away from the current state of the job market — are not a problem at the UI.

But applicants typically know how a law degree will help them solve problems in the future, he said.

One UI law student has seen evidence of the economy’s effect on many of his peers in their decisions to continue their education.

“I have heard more than a few people mention that with this economy [law school] had more appeal,” said Joshua Brody, a second-year UI law student. This way, he said, students can postpone their entrance into the job market by an additional three years.

After completing graduate school at the University of Chicago, Brody hoped to find a more permanent job. He tried his hand at cooking and as a bank teller before deciding to attend the UI law school.

And while Brody always expected to follow in his attorney father’s footsteps, he said many of his peers may have considered the path because of the struggling economy.

The lack of available jobs for recent college graduates has driven many students to consider going to graduate school in general.

But going to law school in particular has caught the attention of many because they don’t need to come from a specific area of study, Byrd said.

Increasingly, schools are responding to the rise in applicant volume by becoming more selective. Byrd likened the process to selling airline tickets.

Everyone wants to go, but “usually everyone doesn’t show up,” he said.

However, on the occasions when all passengers are present, the airline must bargain with customers to take a later flight.

This is the case with the University of Miami School of Law, which has offered to pay accepted students to defer their entrance to the school for a year with scholarship money.
Iowa is not considering a similar system.

“Our yield is coming in a little bit higher than expected, but we don’t have to turn anyone away,” Byrd said.


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