- The Washington Times - Monday, July 29, 2002

The District's law schools are feeling the sharpest impact of the biggest nationwide surge in applications in more than 20 years.
"People think Washington when they think law," Michael Young, dean of George Washington University Law School, said Wednesday. "They want to be at the center of the policy debate, and that's no longer at the state level."
According to the Law School Admission Council, applications to the nation's law schools for the 2002-03 year numbered 88,418 as of July 5 an increase of 17.9 percent over last year.
Deans at the District's major law schools, all of which report application increases greater than the national average, concur that college graduates and even members of the work force are losing faith in the job market.
"People with technical backgrounds are packing for law school because it increases their marketability," said Anne Richards, director of admissions at George Mason University Law School. "Their biggest interest appears to lie in intellectual property law, technology law and patent law."
In a spring survey of the National Association of Colleges and Employers' 415 members, companies said they would hire 36.4 percent fewer graduating seniors this year than last, and starting salaries for college graduates are down across the nation.
George Mason this year received 4,383 applications, up from 2,680 last year a 63 percent increase and the largest yet reported by any law school in the nation.
Catholic University Dean Douglas W. Kmiec said his Columbus School of Law experienced an increase of 26 percent over last year, to 2,970.
"Not only have our applicants increased in quantity, but also in quality," Mr. Kmiec said. "We can't admit a single person on our waiting list now, and the average LSAT score of our incoming class which is already set is three to four points higher than last year's.
"I don't recall any point in the past 10 years when we've selected our incoming class so quickly."
George Washington University Law School, which also is no longer accepting applications, has experienced a 24 percent increase, from about 8,500 to 10,800.
Andrew P. Cornblatt, dean of admissions at Georgetown University, whose Law Center is the biggest in the District, counted 22 percent more applications than last year for a total of 11,500.
"That is 2,000 more than any law school in the United States has ever received," he said. "Part of it's the job market, but another part is the demographics boom. There are more 22-year-olds out there right now than there were 10 years ago."
In addition, new law schools across the nation are finding it easier to become established.
Although few schools have been accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) in recent years, those that have report their largest application surges ever.
Ave Maria Law School, founded in Michigan in 1999 and granted provisional accreditation by the ABA in June, reports a 57 percent increase in applications over last year to 323 as of Wednesday.
"Whenever the economy is in trouble, students recognize the added marketability of an advanced degree," said Michael Kenney, dean of admissions. "To our knowledge, we've benefited more than any other new school from the surge."
Ave Maria, whose dean, Bernard Dobranski, last served as head of Catholic University's law school, boasts a credentialed faculty, including former Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork.
Mr. Kenney says the widening applicant pool has allowed the school to become more selective than ever: The average incoming student scores among the top 16 percent on the LSAT, and the school has accepted just 55 percent of its applicants.
No other law schools have been accredited this year, although St. Thomas More in Minnesota is applying next year. The ABA's Council on Legal Education denied one law school provisional accreditation last year.
Despite an overall increase in applicants to graduate school this year, the number of applications at medical schools has declined from 46,965 in 1996 to 34,859 in 2001.
Law school deans say students see the legal realm as a more accessible field than medicine.
"Law school is open to broader educational backgrounds," said Ms. Richards. "You can major in anything and enter law school, but you have to enter a specific pre-professional program for medicine."
Mr. Kenney said one of Ave Maria's students, accepted last year, was previously a rocket scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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