As Kansas University’s School of Law deals with a national slump in the legal job market, admission applications to the school have fallen sharply.
And KU students and recent graduates are expanding their job searches.
This year, the school received about 850 applications, which is down from about 1,100 the year before, a nearly 23-percent drop.
“This trend of double-digit drops in applications, nearly every school in the country is experiencing this,” said Stephen Mazza, dean of KU’s law school.
KU’s drop-off is still well above the national average, which was around 12 percent to 13 percent in February, but has probably increased since then, Mazza said.
“What has happened is the game has gotten much more competitive for getting applications and retaining students,” he said.
KU will be stepping up its own game. After the law school’s director of admissions left for a new job at the University of Connecticut, KU will be adding not just a new director, but also two new positions — an assistant director and a seasonal recruiter — in the admissions office, Mazza said.
Sparkle Ellison, who will be a third-year law student this fall, said she’s not as concerned about landing a job after her schooling because she’s looking to enter a specialized field. She said she’s not surprised to see the drop-off in applications this year.
“With the job market, it’s easier to keep whatever job you have than go back to law school,” she said.
Ellison said she has advanced degrees in science (including a chemistry doctorate) and is considering patent law. She keeps up on the market in her field by talking with professors, reading patent-specific blogs and by word of mouth.
Todd Rogers, assistant law dean for career services at KU, said he’s seen more students applying for positions that prefer a law degree, rather than those that require bar passage.
KU reported 62 percent of 2009 law graduates whose employment status was known were working in a bar-required position nine months after graduation. That same statistic fell to 59 percent for the class of 2010.
Meanwhile, 9.2 percent of that same pool of students were working in J.D. preferred jobs in 2009, rising to 10.7 percent in 2010.
Those jobs often pay similar to a mid-size law firm, said Rogers, who wrote a blog post for the law school on the topic. Examples of institutions offering “J.D. preferred” that 2010 KU law graduates accepted include NCAA member institutions, federal agencies and the World Bank.
“People are much more open to it now, and I think that’s mostly out of necessity,” Rogers said.