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While area law schools experienced a sizeable increase in applicants for this year’s incoming classes, their admissions offices expect the surge won’t last as the economy improves and more undergraduates plunge into the job market rather than continue hitting the books to earn a J.D. Their concerns are borne out in a survey of 19 of the nation’s top law schools, which showed a 2 percent decrease in applicants this year. Admissions officials say law school applications are cyclical — when the economy is bad, their numbers increase, as it did after the tech bubble burst earlier this decade. Those seeking entry into the University of Connecticut School of Law in Hartford grew a little more than 10 percent, according to Assistant Dean of Admissions and Student Finance Karen DeMeola. However, it was not quite up to the school’s record number of applicants — 3,532 in 2003, she said. Last year, there were 3,131 applicants for 509 seats, while this year there were 3,464 applicants, 500 of whom made the cut, DeMeola said. Applications at law schools overall have steadily increased in the past few years, but have flattened out at the top schools, Admissions Consultants Inc. President David Petersam said. The Virginia-based company assists with applications to professional and graduate schools. A survey of 19 law schools — including Harvard, Cornell, Duke and Columbia — found their collective enrollment dropped by about 2 percent. “I think we’ll see a downward slope next year,” said DeMeola of the application process already underway for next year. BETTER SCORES Like UConn, Quinnipiac University School of Law also enjoyed a healthy increase in new applicants. This year, there were 19 hopefuls for every available seat, said Edwin Wilkes, executive dean of law school enrollment services. The Hamden law school sharply curbed admissions to lower its class sizes. According to Associate Director of Admissions Kathy Kuhar, the school had roughly 2,500 applicants for last year’s 202-student incoming class. This year, nearly 2,600 people applied for 132 available seats, Kuhar said. Wilkes said Quinnipiac has been more proactive in recruitment and efforts to promote the law school on a national level, and it’s paid off. “This is the most selective class we’ve had,” Kuhar said, noting its students’ increasing average LSAT scores. For the full-time students, this year’s 25th percentile is at 155, and the 75th percentile rose to 159, she said. For the 2004 class, the 25th percentile was 152 and the 75th percentile was 155. In comparison, for UConn Law’s 2005 class, the LSAT 25th percentile is 160 and the 75th percentile is 163 out of a top score of 180, DeMeola said. For Western New England College School of Law’s 2004 class, the 25th percentile was 151, while the 75th percentile was 157, according to Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions Michael Johnson. Located in Springfield, Mass., WNEC School of Law saw an 11.7 percent, or nearly 200 student, increase in applicants over 2004, Johnson noted. For the first-year class, there were 1,848 applicants for 150 available spots, he said. Prior to the beginning of the session — before and during orientation — 11 of the 150 decided to forego law school there. Johnson said it is not uncommon for some students to drop out before classes begin. “Within the last couple of months, some decided to enter the marketplace than going to law school,” Johnson said of the 11 vacated seats. Some of the students found jobs or received an attractive offer in their current employment, prompting them to defer their law school aspirations, he said. But “what we saw more than anything was many of the Canadian students got into Canadian schools,” Johnson added. Like Quinnipiac, WNEC administrators looked to enhance students’ educational experience this year by creating more intimate classroom settings. Instead of breaking up its first-year students into two sections, it created a third section so no class size is larger than 50 students. Though enrollment is up for now, minority applicants are increasingly harder to come by for most area law schools, as they are nationally. At UConn Law, the number of minority applicants dipped a bit this year, according to DeMeola. Minority students comprised between 26 and 27 percent of the 2004 first-year class. This year, they fell to under 23 percent of incoming students, DeMeola said. “Everyone wants the same applicants,” she said. The ratio of men to women admitted into the school “appears to be about the same” as last year, which was nearly even at 50-50, DeMeola said. At WNEC, the number of full-time minority students dropped from 18 percent last year to 13.5 percent this year, Johnson said. Quinnipiac’s minority enrollment actually increased from 9.4 percent to 17 percent this year, Kuhar said. There are also more female students, with women making up 58 percent of this year’s incoming class, she added. National Law Journal reports contributed to this story.

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