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The old adage that a floundering economy causes more people to go back to school could not be more accurate for law schools this year. According to the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), a nonprofit group that administers the admissions test for law schools, applications nationwide increased 17.4 percent for 2002-03. For some local law schools, the increase means the class of 2005 will be their largest in decades. Many New York law schools are reporting a record number of applications received for this fall’s incoming class. The schools’ yield rate — the amount of offers of admission they make compared with the amount of students who accept the offers — also hit record numbers for some schools. “The number of people accepting offers is significantly higher than normal and they’ve stuck with us — they’re not withdrawing and they’re not deferring,” said Cornell Law School Dean of Admissions Richard D. Geiger, who is also the chair-elect of the LSAC. “We’re looking at one of the biggest classes we’ve ever had.” Cornell, which had an increase in applications of about 11 percent this fall, will boast an incoming class of about 220 students, up from its normal range of 180 to 190. But some schools, noticing early on that their yield rate was shaping up to be far greater than in previous years, developed methods to try to keep their incoming class at its usual size. “We started making offers of admission and they were coming back at a much higher rate” [than previous years], said Richard A. Matasar, dean of New York Law School, which had 700 more applications than average for this fall’s class. “Once we began to notice that, we ceased admitting students at the rate we normally would.” Despite making offers to about 300 fewer students than usual, New York Law School yielded about 120 more enrolled students than last year’s 500 full- and part-time students. The school has decided to add a fourth section to the full-time divisions in its incoming class to accommodate the extra students. “They came despite our best efforts to try to maintain our class size,” said Dean Matasar. “It’s been rather unrelenting.” Other local schools were more successful in maintaining their usual class sizes in spite of the increase in applications. St. John’s University School of Law, which saw a 30 percent increase in applications for this year, will have an incoming class of about 312 students, up from 300 last year. Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law enrolled 380 students this year, about 45 more than last fall. “I think we were more conservative in making our admissions decisions this year,” said Cardozo’s Assistant Dean for Admissions Robert L. Schwartz. “We knew we were going to have a big increase in the applicant pool this year so we increased our standards for admission.” Fordham University School of Law also decided to be more discerning after realizing the applicant pool was expanded. “We had a 20 percent acceptance rate which is lower than we’d expect,” said Fordham’s Director of Admissions John Chalmers. “We decreased it from 28 percent last year.” Other local schools reporting large increases in applications while not increasing their class size significantly include New York University School of Law, which saw an increase of 18 percent this year; Columbia Law School, whose applications rose by 24 percent; and Brooklyn Law School whose applications were about 35 percent higher than last year. For those schools that managed to maintain their normal class sizes, and even for some whose class size increased, the large number of applicants yielded more students with high scores on the Law School Admissions Test and good undergraduate grade point averages. While most schools wait until classes start to compile official statistics on such matters, the sheer number of students applying means there will be more students with high qualifications from which to choose. “We weren’t admitting people with the same undergraduate grades and LSAT scores as in the past,” said Schwartz. “The LSAT scores for the top quarter of the class [of students admitted] is three points higher than last year. We went from a 160 to a 163. The median is also higher.” Fordham also reported increased scores for their admitted applicants. According to Chalmers, the school increased the median G.P.A. for the top quarter of students to be enrolled from 3.5 to 3.6. The median LSAT score for that quarter of Fordham’s incoming class also increased, from 165 to 166. While some local deans credited the increase in applications to more potential students being interested in their schools, all acknowledged that the difficult job market played a major role. Regardless of the reasons, some schools are already planning for what they expect will be an equally large applicant pool next year. “I think what you’ll see from schools that ended up with extra-large entering classes is a fairly conservative approach to making offers next year,” said Geiger, who noted that applications for this fall’s LSAT were also up significantly. “Indications are that [law school applications] will be up again.”

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