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As the job market gets tighter and more workers find themselves unemployed, new college graduates are continuing their education and working professionals are flocking back to school. In Texas, the law is a popular choice, with schools reporting double-digit percentage increases in the number of applications from wannabe lawyers. School officials in the Lone Star State, where the jump in applications at most law schools is outpacing the overall national increase, say the boom is connected to employment prospects. “It’s the economy. I don’t doubt that for a minute,” says Alicia Cramer, assistant dean for admissions at South Texas College of Law in Houston. “Kids aren’t getting jobs, so they’re going to school.” In addition, downsized workers are training for new careers, and jobholders are keeping their options open, Cramer says. She adds that people find law school attractive because it doesn’t have the prerequisites required of some other graduate programs, such as business. Her counterpart in Austin agrees that the job market translates into more applications. “We think they’re largely driven by the economy,” Monica Ingram, assistant dean for admissions at the University of Texas School of Law, says of the record numbers applying there. UT received 5,444 applications this year, a more than 22 percent increase over last year’s total of 4,451. Applications to South Texas jumped almost 33 percent, from 1,394 a year ago to 1,850 for the fall 2002 class. The overall national increase in the number of people applying to law school was 18.5 percent as of May 10, compared to the same time last year, says media relations specialist Edward Haggerty of the Law School Admission Council in Newtown, Pa. This year, there were 86,184 applicants to accredited law schools in the United States. Many of them looked toward Dallas, to Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, whose applications skyrocketed almost 48 percent, from 1,582 last year to 2,336 this year, or to the University of Houston Law Center, which reports a more than 43 percent increase, from 2,385 to 3,418. Application figures for fall 2002 at other Texas law schools as of mid-May were about 1,400 at Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law, a 40 percent jump over last year; 1,436 at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, an increase of about 35 percent; 1,147 at Texas Tech University School of Law in Lubbock, more than 21 percent up; 1,245 at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law in Fort Worth, 19 percent up; and 1,467 at Baylor University Law School in Waco, almost 18 percent up. The increase in applications won’t translate into more law students in many cases. UH plans to add a fourth section of classes to accommodate a bigger class — it accepted 1,058 students for fall 2002 compared to 836 in 2001 — but most other Texas law schools are holding the line on class size or even shrinking a little, making the chance to become a lawyer even more competitive. Texas schools, with their bigger pool of applicants, illustrate the national trend. “We believe that the economy has led many college students as well as people who have been in the job market to apply to law school,” Haggerty says. “Essentially, they’re looking to ride out the bad economy.” Sondra Tennessee, UH Law Center assistant dean for admissions, says more than one factor fuels the desire to earn a J.D. UH held an open house and sponsored other programs in the past year to get the word out about the school, she says. “The combination of recruiting and the economy was the reason for the increase,” Tennessee says. There’s another small part of the equation, which ties in with the economy: the collapse of Enron Corp. A handful of former and current employees applied to the UH law school for fall 2002, Tennessee says. In Dallas, SMU law Dean John Attanasio credits the economy for part of the increase but points to additional reasons for his school’s popularity, with former students ranking at the top of the list. Successful graduates in law, business and government send a message that students who attend the law school do well in life, he says. GRADUATION DAY Speakers ranging from an astronaut to a politician to a businessman sent Texas law school graduates out into the world with some inspiring words. The nine accredited law schools in the state all held their ceremonies this month. � Baylor University Law School Professor David Guinn spoke at his school’s May 4 graduation. Guinn received his J.D. from Baylor in 1963. � U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, a Republican from the 3rd District of Colorado and a 1981 graduate of St. Mary’s University School of Law, spoke at the law school’s May 18 graduation. � At South Texas College of Law, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican from Texas and a 1967 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, spoke on May 19. � Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law Dean John Attanasio spoke at his school’s May 18 graduation. The dean earned his J.D. in 1979 from New York University. � At Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Elaine R. Jones, director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, addressed the new grads on May 11. Jones is a 1970 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law. � William K. Suter, clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court and retired U.S. Army major general, spoke May 11 at Texas Tech University School of Law. Suter graduated from Tulane University School of Law in 1962. � At Texas Wesleyan University School of Law, Texas Supreme Court Justice Wallace J. Jefferson spoke on May 17. He graduated in 1988 from the UT law school. � Fred Haise, the pilot of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, addressed graduates on May 10 at the University of Houston Law Center, Haise recently retired as president of Northrop Grumman Technical Services. � And May 18 at the University of Texas School of Law, Robert A. Estrada — a 1983 graduate of the law school, a member of the UT board of regents and co-founder of the Dallas-based investment firm Estrada, Hinojosa & Co. — spoke. Estrada served as a special assistant to President George Bush and was associate director of presidential personnel in 1989.

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