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Law school applications drop over last 2 years

April 24, 2013

Applications to three of the four law schools in the state are in free fall as prospective students think twice about taking on mountains of debt at a time when job prospects are dim.

Indiana University Maurer School of Law, I.U. Robert H. McKinney School of Law and Notre Dame Law School have seen applications plunge as much as 31 percent in the past two years.

Only Valparaiso University Law School has escaped the downdraft since the schools’ heyday three years ago.

law-school-chart.jpgThe trend is so abrupt that Gary Roberts, dean of the I.U. McKinney School of Law, openly frets about his options.

“If the falloff is too great, we may have to consider lowering the admissions standards just to be financially viable,” he said.

Law schools are not accustomed to scarcity. Applications swelled as students sought refuge from the recession, peaking in 2010, but as law firms adjusted to the economy by cutting back on hiring, more and more potential students got cold feet and backed away.

As of mid-March, law schools across the nation had received 49,603 applications, down 17 percent and 30 percent, respectively, from the same time in the prior two years, according to the Law School Admission Council in Newtown, Pa.

In Indiana, applications have dipped most at the I.U. Maurer School of Law – 31.5 percent from 2010, to 2,358 last year.

• The Notre Dame Law School is down 28.1 percent, to 2,888.

• The I.U. McKinney School of Law has fallen 27.1 percent, to 1,385.

• Valparaiso is down only five applications, to 1,467.

Experiences like those of Teresha Twyman and Kelsey Raves, both of whom graduate from I.U. McKinney School of Law in May, spark fear in would-be students.

Twyman took the bar exam in February and is set to graduate next month. But she has no job prospects and a mound of debt approaching six figures.

She started law school four years ago just as the legal job market began to dry up.

Now Twyman and Raves, 25, of Pittsburgh, are stuck with few options.

“I’m open to whatever I can find,” Raves said. “I’ve been submitting applications for jobs that don’t start until August, but I haven’t found anything yet.”

Before the recession, law school students often parlayed summer associate work into full-time gigs after graduating.

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