Law applicants increase as job openings decline

By Rob Heselbarth

Although the recession has sunk some would-be lawyers, NIU law graduates are weathering the storm.

A recent study by the Law School Admission Council shows that while the number of law school applicants has been increasing, the number of law school graduates being hired is decreasing.

Following this national trend, NIU School of Law graduates rose from 80 in 1988 to 89 in 1990. The number hit 101 this year. While this is good news for the law school, the recession could make it bad news for the graduates.

However, the situation for NIU graduates is not as bad as it at many of the other law schools.

Linda Walt, NIU law school director of Career Services and Alumni Relations, said job placement for NIU graduates has been high, reaching 95 percent in 1990. The statistics for 1991 graduates will not be known for a while, but Walt said she would expect them to be down to about 85 percent.

Walt said the starting pay for NIU law graduates generally ranges from $22,000 to $35,000, although some students have been known to start off at $70,000.

Nationally, law firms are not visiting colleges as much as they have been in the past. Visits to Harvard University Law School are down 15 percent. At NIU, law firm visits are down 30 percent from recent years, Walt said.

Fewer law firm visits aren’t the only changes. Walt said the interviewing trends have been changing as well.

“It’s interesting how few of the employers interviewe

third-year students,” she said. “More second-year students were interviewed for clerk positions and summer internships.”

Leonard Mandel, assistant dean of NIU’s School of Law, said the recession is to blame for law firms hiring fewer lawyers, as well as more students entering the law school.

“The recession, the media, the Clarence Thomas hearings and television shows like ‘Civil Wars’ all glamorize the law profession,” Mandel said.

Another reason for lawyer popularity, Walt said, is the “L.A. Law syndrome,” following the popularity of the hit television show that glamorizes the profession.

Walt also said the recession is partly to blame for the increased popularity of being a law student.

“It is uncertainty in the economy,” she said. “People feel if they’re more educated, they’ll have a better chance at getting a better job.”

“There is always room for a good lawyer,” said Mandel.