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The Daily Tar Heel

Study: improved odds for law school hopefuls

Despite the recent economic recession and an oversaturated job market, now might be the best time to apply to law school.

Kaplan, a company that provides educational programs and test preparation for various levels of education, released a report last month that found 54 percent of law school admissions officers decreased the size of their incoming classes this academic year — and 25 percent said they plan to cut them further in 2014-15.

Law schools across the country have seen declines in applications for several years. UNC School of Law had an 8-percent drop in 2011-12.

“Schools are now being put in the dilemma of keeping class sizes the same and having their scores go down, or reduce class sizes and keep their traditional standards,” said Jeff Thomas, director of pre-law programs at Kaplan.

UNC School of Law reduced its class size in response to the decline in applications to keep its standards high, said Michael States, assistant dean for admissions.

“We are as selective as we have always been,” he said. “There are a lot of schools that are taking people they wouldn’t have been. This is an attractive place to be because of our tuition and reputation.”

Because of fewer applications and subsequent smaller class sizes, the median LSAT score for UNC dropped by one point — but States said some schools experienced larger declines of two to three points.

If UNC hadn’t reduced its class size, the median score would have gone down more, he said.

Thomas said the climate is good news for potential applicants — well-qualified students are more likely to get into their first-choice law school, because there is a smaller number of students competing for spots.

Before the recession, students entered the workforce with relative ease, he said.

But when the economy crashed, along with a large number of law firms, the number of law school applications hit record highs, he said.

Law degrees were attractive because of their versatility and because they do not require prerequisites, other than the LSAT, Thomas said.

“These students then graduated in 2010 and 2011,” he said. “This caused an over-influx of people with law degrees, and people with law degrees were having a hard time finding employment.”

Ben McManus, a second-year law student at UNC, said he’s been certain of his choice to pursue a law degree since his freshman year of high school.

“The entire job market is tough, so it would be hard to find a job in any profession,” he said. “I might as well struggle to find a job I will like.”

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