Applications to law schools are nearing a 30-year low, causing institutions to decrease the size of their incoming classes in order to remain selective. Among pre-law students and faculty at Knox, however, this presents little cause for concern.
The decrease in applicants can likely be attributed to the downturn in the economy circa 2008-and the resulting rise in tuition debt and shrinking job prospects, factors which made law school an even larger investment than in the past.
According to Professor of Political Science and pre-law adviser Lane Sunderland, “law schools have taken a hard look at how many lawyers they want to produce,” in response to these changes in the economy.
“There are a number of law schools who have purposely decreased the size of their entering class,” he said, which he attributes to an awareness of the decreased demand for young lawyers and a desire to uphold the quality and standards of their institutions.
Nevertheless, Sunderland remains hopeful.
“Knox is doing very well, and I’m not concerned that this is going to hurt Knox students in any way-other than the fact that the [low] demand for young lawyers remains challenging,” he said.
The numbers back him up; 14 out of 15 Knox applicants were accepted to at least one or more law schools in the last year alone (though these include Knox alumni who have taken one or more years off prior to applying).
Over the course of his 40-year career at Knox, Sunderland has seen around 95 percent of applicants admitted. He predicted that the position of Knox students may even improve in light of the cutbacks in acceptances “because of the fact that the law schools are really searching for good students to fill their entering class.”
Senior Charlotte Young, president of Knox’s pre-law club and teaching assistant for Sunderland’s LSAT review course, attested that Knox succeeds in “preparing its students to be competitive applicants.
“I think just in general the liberal arts background is really helpful…it makes us well-rounded students,” she said, noting the importance of possessing a broad base of knowledge and understanding for the LSAT, which stretches beyond the realm of political science.
Likewise, senior Sebastian Rouanet, who has been accepted by Lewis and Clark Law School, noted that his liberal arts education at Knox has given him “really good writing skills and analytical skills and that…helped me build a strong application.”
In addition to the foundation offered by Knox’s liberal arts curriculum and the LSAT review course, students interested in pursuing law after Knox are able to attend events where alumni share their experiences in law, talk with law school representatives, apply for Knox’s cooperative programs with Columbia University and the University of Chicago and receive general support.
Many students interested in law careers-both at Knox and nationwide-seem to be benefiting from something else as well: taking time off after graduation before accepting an offer of admission.
Among them is Young, who intends to take a year off after Knox and seek work at a legal firm.
“It might not be the right decision for everyone, but I think for me it is…I want to make sure law school’s exactly what I want to do because it’s a very big investment and I don’t want to just jump right into it, not having explored every single aspect,” she said.
Sunderland sees this developing trend as a “good thing” and has never known a student who regretted taking time off.
He, like Young and Rouanet, remain unfazed over the prospects of Knox law school applicants.
“Our record speaks for itself in terms of the quality of the students and education,” he said.