Is law school a road out of the recession?

We posted last week on older workers struggling with standardized testing as they try to return to school.

It led to a bunch of good responses, including a detailed view from John Rood, a source in MPR’s Public Insight Network who specializes in preparing students for the Law School Admission Test, the gatekeeper exam for law school hopefuls.

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“Applicants that have been in the workforce for a few years are increasingly making a radical career change,” he told us. “Many older applicants are responding to economic pressures, rather than undergraduates who have wanted to be lawyers since watching The Practice.”

In years past, those seeking LSAT help were traditional pre-law school applicants: “paralegals, Teach for America participants, or those taking a few years for public service. We still see those students, but we have gotten an increased number of corporate / government employees coming from unrelated fields.”

Clearly, more people are at least thinking about law school.

There’s been a significant increase nationally in LSAT test taking over the past year. In October, more than 60,000 prospective law school students took the LSAT, a 20 percent jump from October 2008.

Rood says he sees many older applicants looking to take the test on short notice.

This was certainly the case this December and January which are traditionally slower months; the February LSAT (the test is administered 4 times per year) is a “last call” for 2010 law school admissions and I saw heavy interest from older applicants.”

Older applicants are less likely to be familiar with the law school application process. A great example: law schools (like other grad schools) highly value academic letters of recommendation, but working professionals have usually lost contact with old professors. They are more likely to be uncertain about things like personal statements

Older applicants are more likely to be bound geographically by family, real estate, etc. I see many older students that have identified 1-2 law schools (often in smaller cities); if they don’t get into these schools, they won’t go to law school.

For comparison, most undergrads plan on applying to 5-15 schools and going wherever fate takes them.

Rood’s based in Chicago but his vantage point caught my interest because we have four law schools in The Cities and the recession’s hit the region’s legal business hard. Is law school really a path out of the recession?

I’d love to hear from Minnesotans who are mid-career professionals weighing a law school application or who are connected to one of the regions law schools.

Tell us what you’re doing / seeing. Post below or contact me directly.

“Law is a particularly interesting case because many applicants believe it to be a relatively sure thing employment-wise,” said Rood. “But the legal industry has been hit hard by the recession and jobs are scarce. There’s a bit of a ‘streets lined with gold’ mentality that’s just not the case any more.”