Applications to NU’s Law School spike by 21 percent

Jodi Genshaft

Law School applications have increased by 21 percent from this time last year, officials said Monday, with applications from women and minorities skyrocketing.

So far, the 3,800 submitted applications show a 92 percent increase in Latinos and a 67 percent increase in blacks, said Donald Rebstock, associate dean of enrollment. The number of women and Asian applicants are each up 38 percent.

The Law School class that entered in the fall is 50 percent women and 29 percent minorities.

Admission officials expect to receive about 5,000 applications by the Feb. 17 deadline, 500 more than last year. The Law School typically admits about 700 applicants to fill a class of between 205 and 240 students, Rebstock said.

Rebstock attributed the increase in applications to the economic downturn, NU’s improved 11th-place ranking in U.S. News & World Report and a reputation for progressive education.

“We have a message that we have been communicating for a number of years, and it’s beginning to resonate,” he said. “We’re one of the only law schools that tries to interview most of the applicants.”

Team projects and joint-degree programs are also popular among prospective students.

Law School Prof. Rob Warden, director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, said national attention on the center’s work to exonerate prisoners unjustly doing time may have drawn more applicants. But he thinks the starting salary of Law School graduates and its academic ranking more likely attracted applications.

“It would be very interesting to do a survey to find out what attracted (students) to Northwestern,” Warden said. “And I would like to think that we had something to do with that. We have drawn a lot of attention to the Law School.”

Admission officials said any reason given at this time for the sharp increase in women and minority applications would be speculative.

Weinberg senior Courtney Brunsfeld, who applied to several law schools including NU, said discrimination against women and minorities has decreased in the legal profession.

“Society is changing, and I think that schools are actively recruiting minorities to increase the diversity of the student body because it’s becoming an increasingly valued thing,” Brunsfeld said.

Across the United States, the number of law school applications is up 16 percent from last year, Rebstock said.

At the University of Chicago, applications are up 18 percent to nearly 3,900, compared with last year, said Ann Perry, assistant dean for admissions at the law school. The university expects to draw more than 5,000 applicants by its Feb. 3 deadline.

The Law School Admission Council reports a growing number of LSAT test-takers.

“One of my LSAT professors told the class that the number of people taking the LSAT doubled this year,” said Saty Reddy, a Weinberg senior.

More than 120,000 people have taken the admission test since June. Some 130,000 tests were scored between June 2001 and January 2002.

Rebstock said the quality of applicants also has increased.

“We’re markedly seeing strong people applying,” he said. “Last year, the median LSAT score was kicked up half a point. Like all law schools, we require strong academic backgrounds.

“The difference is that we want to see something more than that — substantial work experience, strong interpersonal communication skills.”