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Yale Law School emerged unscathed from a nationwide drop-off in applications submitted to U.S. law schools this year.
Although a number of the country’s top-ranked law schools, including Harvard, Columbia, Stanford and NYU law schools, received at least 100 fewer applications this year than last, Yale received only five fewer applications — a drop from 3,783 to 3,778. According to the Law School Admissions Council, there was a 9.5 percent overall decline this year in law school applications and a 5 percent overall decline in the total number of applicants.
Law School Dean Harold Koh said he is not surprised that interest in Yale has not waned.
“Yale Law School has been historically blessed with applicants who are passionate, talented and fired by optimism,” Koh said. “Fortunately, the supply of such applicants never seems to decline.”
Yale Law School applications have gradually increased since 2001, though there was as significant drop-off after 1992, when over 5,000 applications were received, according to statistics provided by Law School spokesman Klas Bergman. Meanwhile, this year Harvard Law School applications declined from 7,386 to 7,127 and Columbia Law School saw a drop of more than 300 applications, from 8,355 to 8,020, The New York Times reported. Stanford Law School also saw a drop from 5,040 applications to 4,863 applications, according to the Times.
But this national application plunge comes as the low point of a natural cycle, and should not be cause for concern, some legal experts said.
“It’s not surprising, because they’re basically something we’ve expected, because it was up so high several years ago, and now there was bound to be a leveling off,” said Wendy Margolis, a spokeswoman for the Law School Admissions Council. “Even though we’re down a little bit, they’re still a lot higher than they once were.”
James Calvi, a professor at West Texas A&M University and chairman of the Prelaw Advisors National Council, said a variety of factors might have contributed to the plummet, including the possibility that there may be less interest in the law profession among students.
“I don’t know if [the application decrease] is a good or bad thing, but if some of our better minds and brightest young people are shying away from the law because they have feelings that it’s an unethical profession, then we have a cause for concern,” Calvi said, noting that medical school applications have risen this past year. “On the other hand, there might be the feeling that the market has become a little saturated, and it’s getting a little tougher to get in.”
Judith Romero, spokeswoman for Stanford Law School, agreed with Calvi that today’s healthy economy might be encouraging individuals to enter the workplace over applying to a graduate school.
“For us, this just represents your typical cycle,” Romero said. “When the economy looks good, people go to work, and when it’s not so good, application rates go up, and people tend to go to school in the sluggish economy. There’s nothing that is out of the ordinary here.”
Director of Undergraduate Career Services Philip Jones said the state of the economy influences the paths of seniors who are making hard decisions about their future.
“The indications are that, right now, hiring for graduating students is up over the last couple of years. When the economy is down, applications go up as students look to get additional qualifications … and ‘wait out’ the recession in the job market,” Jones said in an e-mail. “I don’t consider this a particularly good strategy, since there are always positions available in any economy, and Yale students are well-equipped to compete in a shallow pool of opportunities. That’s how you got here, after all.”
Jones said there is no necessary correlation between medical school and law school applications, since medical school applicants are less likely to consider the state of the economy. Richard Silverman, director of admissions for the Yale School of Medicine, said medical schools enjoyed a strong showing of applications across the country this year, but he attributed the high interest level to a fixation among students on health care.
“National trends in medical school admissions tend to be … a reflection of wide-spread interest in health policy, exciting new developments in clinical medicine and medical research, and health care access challenges across our society,” he said.
In a geographic breakdown of this year’s law school applications based on figures compiled through Feb. 3, all regions besides the Great Lakes — which saw a 1.9 percent increase in applicants — suffered from an application decrease. In the Northeast, applications decreased by 10.4 percent and law school applicants decreased by 7.6 percent, according to the Law School Admissions Council.