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2018-03-23 / News

Law Student Enrollment and “The Trump Bump”

BY R. BROCK PRONKO
Regional Business Analyst


OSOFSKY OSOFSKY During the Great Recession, college grads had a tough time finding career path jobs, so many enrolled in graduate school or professional schools, such as law school, while waiting out the recession. Law students who graduated between 2012 and 2015 found the job market for lawyers was still flat, and many took lesser-paying jobs as law clerks or paralegals.

For example, in 2013, Penn State Law reported 94 out of 199 graduates secured full-time, long-term, JD- required employment. After removing the five graduates who went into solo practice from the equation, only 44.7 percent, or 89 out of 199, secured JD- required employment.

Thanks to a much-improved economy and an uptick in the need for legal services, the job outlook for newly minted lawyers is looking brighter.

“Penn State Law has improved its job placement rates in the past year and is working hard to continue to create even more opportunities for our students,” said Hari Osofsky, dean of Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs.

“We recognize the importance of an individualized approach to career support in the changing legal employment landscape, and we are one of the few law schools in the country to offer comprehensive mentoring that begins at admissions.

“We also continue to build connections with Penn State’s unparalleled alumni network.”

Like most fields today, technology has assumed a greater role in law practices. Penn State Law is training its law students for this digital landscape.

“Technology, globalization and the need for cross-cutting knowledge are transforming the legal profession, and we’re preparing our students to lead through a variety of innovative initiatives,” said Osofsky.

“For example, we are launching a Legal-Tech Virtual Lab to prepare our students for the technology they will face in practice, educate them about the legal issues around emerging technology and create novel learning opportunities, such as using immersive course content.

“Our students also can take advantage of our Externships Everywhere program to ‘extern’ anywhere in the world and participate in courses here in University Park through our advanced distance learning technology.”

“Externs” earn up to 12 credits for working up to 40 hours per week at an approved “externship” with a state or federal judge, government agency, public interest/nonprofit organization, business or law firm.

Due to the glut, law school enrollment had been down 30 percent, and most of the law schools in Pennsylvania had reduced the size of their incoming classes. Temple dropped its admissions by more than 100 students per year, and Villanova dropped nearly as many. But law schools are now beginning to accept more students.

Penn State Law has also experienced an uptick in its number of law school applications.

“LSAT test takers and applications to law school are rising nationally this year, and Penn State Law is seeing a growth in its applicant pool, as well,” said Osofsky.

In addition to an improved economy, more students are entering law schools due to the change in political climate. According to a Kaplan Test Prep survey, out of more than 500 pre-law students, 32 percent indicated that the 2016 presidential election influenced their desire to become lawyers.

“There’s an interesting side factor in the uptick in law school enrollment, which is being referred to as ‘Trump Bump,’” said Tom Wilkinson, who is a former lecturer in law on professional responsibility at Villanova University School of Law.

“Due to the changed legal landscape created by the Trump Administration — from immigration law to business law to tax law to environmental policy — more law students have become interested in going into public policy and political advocacy roles than had been previously.” .

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