The GW Law School saw a 7 percent increase in applications for this year’s class and administrators say the increase could be due to tougher economic times, a law school administrator said Tuesday.
Gregory Maggs, senior associate dean for academic affairs in the law school, said the program received more than 9,500 applications this year.
“One reason that our admissions application was up is that a lot of people figure that the economy is not going to be good for the next couple of years and they are going to spend that time in law school,” Maggs said. “When people can’t get jobs, they go to school.”
Chris Baum, a first-year law student, echoed the dean’s sentiments.
“A lot more people are interested in pursuing a career in law because of the economy,” Baum said. “They can’t get a job, so they go to law school.”
Baum, however, is optimistic about his own prospects when he graduates in three years.
“The economy will turn around and there will always be a need for lawyers,” Baum said.
As incoming law students hope for a brighter future, law school administrators have ramped up their efforts to ensure that as many graduates as possible find jobs in the field, said Carole Dewey-Montgomery, director of career development for the law school.
Dewey-Montgomery said the loss of jobs in so many of the large law firms has made it more difficult, but not impossible, for graduates to find jobs.
“It’s not completely bleak, it’s different and that’s where the problem comes,” Dewey-Montgomery said. “If a student comes to law school thinking, ‘I’m going to get the big firm job and make $160,000 a year’ and not look at anything else, they might have a problem.”
Maggs said because the law school is one of the top feeder institutions to big law firms, the economic hardships firms have endured in recent years has directly impacted GW graduates.
“We’re usually in the top ten of schools feeding to big law firms, so we are hurt by anything that happens to them,” Maggs said. “It’s really a thing that we have a lot of difficulty adjusting to.”
The career development center now encourages students to focus more on government positions or those at smaller firms.
“What we are doing is bringing attention to other types of employers to students,” Dewey-Montgomery said. “We’re doing that more now because in the past not all our students had to be worried about the other employers.”
As the cost of a GW law degree racks up to almost $130,000, Dewey-Montgomery said that the effects of the economy and the cost of tuition might make some students rethink law school altogether.
“For a number of students, you really have to sit down and do a cost-benefit analysis and some self-assessment,” Dewey-Montgomery said. “In the past, [law school] was just a default choice, but the cost now of any law school means you have to figure out if this is really what you want to do.”
Keegan Bales contributed to this report