Applications for law school rise


Charlie Anderson/The Daily Iowan
UI senior Phil Barrett looks over parts of his law-school application at his apartment on Monday. This year, law school applications are up 53 percent from this time last year.
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Future lawyers beware: Competition is increasing.

Application numbers at the UI College of Law are up. Compared with this time last year, they’ve risen by 53 percent — a huge increase that is mirrored at law schools around the country.

It’s the biggest single-year jump since Collins Byrd, the law school dean of admissions, arrived at the UI in 2005, and it comes after a 10 percent decrease in applications last year.

Sneaking in an interview before leaving for Minnesota on a recruiting trip, Byrd said the increased numbers are largely a result of more aggressive recruiting efforts. He has traveled more, returned to more schools numerous times, and increased letter-writing campaigns to attract top students.

Though the jump seems drastic, students shouldn’t read too much into it, he said, noting the final tally will likely look far more moderate after the March 1 admissions deadline. To date, officials have received approximately 225 applications of an expected 2,000. And a rolling admissions process, common at most law schools, means more potential students send their applications in early.

UI senior Phil Barrett, who plans to apply for law school after taking a year off, said he isn’t too worried about the increase in competition.

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“It doesn’t concern me, but it doesn’t surprise me either,” he said, and the UI, named a Tier 1 law school by U.S. News & World Report, is one of his many choices.

Besides, numbers fluctuate this early, Byrd said. On Monday morning, the increase was pegged at 53 percent. At the end of last week, it was at 62 percent.

“Tomorrow, it could be 62 percent again,” Byrd said. “Don’t get too exited, but be optimistic. Because things are going pretty well for us right now.”

Though he doesn’t anticipate the hike to stay this big, he said, he does expect to end up with an increase.

In addition to recruiting effots, the economy has also influenced the jump, officials said.

In previous years, the mortgage and credit crises have forced application numbers down as potential students struggled just to stay afloat, he said. But people are adjusting now and realizing they can be accepted to and pay for law school, he said.

People are also realizing the benefits of a law degree in the current economy. Officials agree when the economy falls, interest in graduate programs increases.

Economic problems started later in the fall last year, too late for many people to apply, said Sarah Zearfoss, the dean of admissions at the University of Michigan law school. But people have had a year to weigh their options in the current economy and decide whether to attend law school.

The University of Michigan, also a Tier 1 school, has received 1,500 applications this year — up from 1,000 at this time last year.

“I would be stunned if it kept up,” Zearfoss said. “But I’d be stunned if we didn’t end up with a fairly significant rise.”

Michigan State University law school, a Tier 3 school, has also seen an increase in applicants.

Though it has only received about 15 percent of the expected number of applications, it has seen an increase of 25 to 40 percent, which fluctuates daily, said Charles Roboski, the assistant dean of admissions.

Both deans cited the economy as the “big driver” for the increase. Neither school has changed recruitment efforts.

Despite the increase in applications, the schools aren’t planning on increasing next year’s class size, which is 200 at the UI. That means a more competitive admissions process.

“We’re not looking for more, but we are looking for better,” Byrd said.

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