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Fewer LSATs show reduced undergrad interest in law

Marilyn Odendahl
December 4, 2013
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The continued drop in the number of people taking the LSAT has brought more worries about the future of law schools; however, many would-be applicants may just be waiting for the economy to improve before they try for admission.

In the past, Frank Rowen, assistant director of the career center at Ball State University, noticed undergraduates in any kind of major who felt they were good at logic and writing would consider attending law school. This was especially true for those students who were unsure of what they wanted to do after they got their bachelor’s degree.

The downturn in the economy, along with the stories of law school graduates not finding jobs and struggling under crushing student loan debt, have made undergraduates more hesitant, Rowen said. But they are not necessarily giving up on the idea of someday going to law school or working in the legal field.

While some students are passionate and committed to studying the law, Rowen said others are opting to get a job after graduation, gain a little real-world experience, then re-evaluate whether a law degree is something they truly want.

The number of LSATs administered is a gauge many law schools rely on as an indicator of how big the applicant pool will be. After a lengthy review, the American Bar Association decided earlier this year to retain the requirement for admissions testing. The association kept the standard that accredited law schools must select students from the pool of applicants who have taken an admissions test.

Since the most popular test is the LSAT, the number of individuals taking the exam provides the best indicator of the level of interest in law as a career.

According to the number of tests given, the interest has been falling in recent years.

Individuals taking the LSAT surged during the first part of the Great Recession, reaching a record 171,514 for the 2009-2010 test year. The number of tests administered has dropped since 2010 and fell to 112,515 in 2012-2013. This is lowest total of administered tests since 2000-2001 when 109,030 LSATs were given.

For Carlton Waterhouse, professor at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, the current situation reminds him of when he applied to law school. He enrolled in the early 1980s when the country was going through another crippling recession.

Waterhouse’s mother knew people with law degrees who could not find jobs as lawyers, and she discouraged her son from becoming an attorney. He now sees that same anxiety in his law students with some, responding to the economy and criticism of legal education, second guessing their decision to become lawyers.

Just as the market recovered in the 1980s, Waterhouse said the current economy will cycle upward and the law jobs will return. His confidence is based on his view that law is very jurisdictional and many of the things a lawyer does cannot be outsourced.

At the start of the 2012-2013 school year, Waterhouse led the effort to build a partnership between IU McKinney and Shortridge Magnet High School for Law and Public Policy in Indianapolis. Law school faculty members teach the youngsters about various aspects of the law, and law school students serve as mentors and tutors.

Waterhouse said the partnership will expose the high school students to the law and the career opportunities and possibly get them thinking about earning a J.D. Although many of the Shortridge pupils would be the first in their families to attend college, the McKinney professor is not discouraged by the prospect that to become lawyers, these students will have to complete four years of college followed by three years of law school.

“I think when you can ignite in a person a curiosity and interest and appreciation of education, then there are a lot of opportunities that come out of that,” Waterhouse said. “I think if we can ignite the spark in many of these students, we can be really impressed with the result.”

Rowen is seeing an interest in the law with the students he counsels at Ball State. The glamour of being a trial lawyer like those depicted on television has faded, but students in the university’s legal studies program want a career in the legal field even if they cannot go to law school.

Working with the students who are thinking about law school, Rowen does not blatantly tell them not to go.

lsat“We’re definitely not telling students, ‘No law school for you,’” Rowen said. “It’s not our job to tell the students what to do. Our job is to help them understand the options and possibilities.”

He explains to the undergraduates how law school classes are different in rigor and design than their current college courses. Also, he helps the students explore all the things an attorney can do and the different ways a law degree can be used.

Along with the drop in individuals taking the LSAT, some in legal education are concerned about data that shows a decline in the number of applications from students at the elite universities and with the highest LSAT scores.

Waterhouse speculated the undergraduates who have strong academic records are not applying to law school because they have options elsewhere. Previously, these students chose to become attorneys because it was the most lucrative profession even though they may not have had any passion for the law. Now, with the change in the economy, some of these high achievers are deciding to pursue a medical degree or an MBA.

The shift in attitudes about law school among all undergraduates mirrors an earlier shift in college degrees in general, Rowen said. Previously, students could arrive on campus, complete a bachelor’s degree and then figure out where they wanted to work. A college degree practically guaranteed a job.

Today, with that guarantee gone, students have to be more thoughtful about preparing themselves for a career after graduation. Likewise, undergraduates who truly want to be attorneys are preparing themselves early for the academic challenges of law schools.

Typically by the sophomore year, Rowen’s students start planning for law school. Those who do not consider law school until their senior year are opting to wait awhile before applying.•

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  1. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

  2. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

  3. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

  4. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  5. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

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