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While Florida lags behind the national pace of law school application increases, the University of Miami and St. Thomas law schools are among those seeing big increases in applications. But at Florida’s Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad Law Center, applications are at the same level as last year, about 1,500. Would-be lawyers drawn by record salaries for starting associates are flooding some Florida law schools with applications, reversing a decade-long decline. Reflecting a national trend, applications are up significantly at the University of Miami, University of Florida and the St. Thomas University schools of law. But not all law schools in Florida are reaping the fruits of law’s renewed popularity as a career path. Applications at Nova Southeastern University’s law school stayed about even, and Florida State University’s law school is among those that have seen applications decline. Law schools throughout the country are enjoying their first application increases since the 1980s. By fall, about 77,000 people will submit applications to attend law schools around the country, according to forecasts by the Law School Admission Council, up about 3.3 percent from last year. It will be the second consecutive increase, after a 30 percent drop in applications nationwide from 1991 through 1998. The council attributes the rising popularity of attending law school to the nation’s strong economy and prospering legal market, not to mention well-publicized, first-year associate salaries, that can run to six figures. At Florida schools, the situation is mixed. Overall, applications to law schools here are holding steady, said Ed Haggerty, council spokesman, bucking the national trend by not moving up. Applications are “up at some schools, down at some,” Haggerty said. “It’s very difficult to explain why.” Applications rose at the University of Miami School of Law, from 2,411 in 1999 to 2,696 this year, a 12 percent increase. The number of minority applicants to the school is up, too, particularly among Hispanics. In 1999, 444 Hispanics and 339 blacks applied; this year the numbers were 496 for Hispanics and 350 for blacks. That pleases Dennis Lynch, dean of the UM school, who said it strives for 36 percent minority enrollment. “We’re a very diverse school. We’re in the top 10 in the country in terms of diversity,” he said. “We’re way up there.” The bad news for those who want to attend UM is that on top of the increase in applicants, there is a decrease in available spots. The school is decreasing its class size this year from 373 full-time, day students to 335 and from 50 part-time, evening students to about 30. At the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law, one of two public law schools in the state — five others are private — 1,800 people applied for admission this year, up nearly 9 percent from last year’s 1,656. UF will keep its class size steady, admitting 200 students in the fall and 200 in the spring, said Michael Patrick, assistant dean of admissions. St. Thomas University School of Law has fewer applicants than UF but a bigger percentage increase. going from 1,447 in 1999 to 1,583 this year, a 9.3 percent increase. “We’ve done a lot more outreach and recruitment outside of Florida,” said Lydia Amy, assistant dean for enrollment. University officials are concerned, however, that the number of black applicants is down 8 percent. The number of Asian applicants rose 5 percent and the number of Hispanics did not change. Still, not all schools are celebrating. Florida State University, for example, received 4 percent fewer applications this year. John Larson, the school’s acting associate dean, said Florida State seems to lag a year or two behind national trends. “When applications tailed off in 1991, we didn’t see it for a couple years,” he said. “We lag the curve.” Applications are also shrinking at Stetson University College of Law. Although final numbers are not yet in, vice dean Tom Allison forecasts that the total number of applications will drop about 4 percent. He attributes the decline to the simple fact that the school until recently lacked an admissions director. At Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad Law Center, applications are at the same level as last year — about 1,500. Minority applicants continue to make up 40 percent of applicants and women make up about half.

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