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Law applications up at UI, down nationwide

BY LUKE VOELZ | MARCH 25, 2011 7:20 AM

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The University of Iowa College of Law is seeing more potential lawyers than its peers.

The Law School Admissions Council Inc. recently predicted an 11.6 percent decrease in law-school applicants nationwide compared with last year. But at the UI, officials are predicting a 13 percent increase.

UI law Professor Herbert Hovenkamp said the declining national application trends may be a result of the sluggish economy.

“Right now, the ratio of job finders to job seekers is quite a bit lower than it has been,” he said. “The economy is in a very serious recession, and the general market for lawyers is very sensitive to economic development and economic levels of activity.”

Student’s payment responsibilities also play a part, he said.

“When I went to school in the ’70s, the older generation paid for the younger’s education,” he said. “We’ve moved to a system where the young are expected to pay their way.”



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But the UI’s relatively low tuition and many scholarship offerings keep applications coming in, students and faculty said.

“We have been able to remain stable and in a good position,” Collins Byrd, assistant dean of admissions for the law college, wrote in an e-mail. “This has allowed us to be successful at a time when the law-school-admissions market is, needless to say, volatile.”

More than 1,750 applicants applied to the UI law school in 2010, up from 1,291 in 2009.

However, Byrd said, law schools should not be judged entirely on applications and class sizes.

“[Rankings] are important to us, but they’re not going to drive us,” he said. “Some schools get obsessed by them. Our main focus is on giving law students what they need so they can get out, practice law, and benefit society. If we can improve rankings while doing that, great.”

The UI College of Law is ranked 27th out of 188 law schools nationwide, according to the U.S. News’ America’s Best Graduate Schools 2012.

An August 2010 article in National Jurist magazine ranked the UI among the top 60 Best Value law schools in the nation, and an October 2009 article in the same magazine placed Iowa 16th out of 180 schools nationwide in the percent of new students who received scholarships.

Current UI law-school tuition is $24,154 for in-state students and $42,922 for out-of-state students. Those amounts are around $6,000 lower than tuition at the University of Minnesota and $11,000 lower than the University of Michigan. Law-school tuition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is around $6,000 cheaper than at the UI.

But despite the UI school’s rankings and growth, some students said they’re still concerned with debt.

In fact, first-year law student Michael Appel said debt from student loans could impact his career direction.

“There’s a sentiment among a lot of law students that they can’t go into something that won’t pay really well,” he said. “I think a lot of us are constantly weighing our goals with our costs and our debts.”

The average UI law student’s loan debt for the class of 2010 was $87,891.

Appel said while he would like to work as a prosecutor in the public sector, private-sector jobs such as working for his own law firm would pay more.

That uncertainty is why second-year law student John Hofmeyer said it’s important to stay realistic in today’s job market.

The 24-year-old applied for almost 45 jobs before finding one last summer. He said students can’t expect to get a job like they see on TV immediately after graduating.

“I came in [to law school] with a less glamorous view,” he said. “If you’re willing to work hard and work your way up, you’ll get it, but you’ve got to start somewhere.”


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