March 3, 2009

Amid Recession, More Apply to Law School

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This is the second article in a series examining the effects of the recession on budget and admissions policies in Cornell’s graduate and professional schools.

Likely the result of the current economic downturn, the Cornell Law School has seen a surge in applicants this year.
Richard Geiger, associate dean for communications and enrollment, explained that the economy has a countercyclical effect on law school applications, meaning that when the economy is down, the number of law school applications goes up. He anticipates that next year will be the time that applications increase most dramatically.
“The application volume is up 7 or 8 perent compared to last year,” Geiger said. “It could be that those who were laid off would take [the] opportunity to change their career paths or come to law school for a different trajectory when they return to the workplace.”
He added that graduating seniors who test a job market and realize there are not any jobs for them, consider law school as an alternative.
Ghazal Tajmiri law ’09 said, “As things get worse, you can’t help but worry and wonder if your firm will cancel your job, since some firms have folded. The situation is market- and firm-specific, but it is a tough climate with so many layoffs.”
The concern about securing and keeping a job is widespread among law students. John DeRosa, assistant dean for student and career services, has noticed a rise in anxiety and uncertainty for students as they continue their job search.
DeRosa believes that the economy’s impact on the Law School extends to both the students and alumni. Accordingly, DeRosa said that the career services has oriented itself towards developing “forward-looking approaches and strategies, rather than upon the placement of our current students.”
“Our Class of ’08 saw a 97-percent employment rate at graduation and placement for the Class of ’09 will not differ materially from that level,” DeRosa stated in an e-mail. “If the economy does not improve at least somewhat over the course of the next year or two, we certainly expect that to be reflected in our placement rates.”
The Career Services office has placed emphasis on increasing the number of employment opportunities available. One of their current efforts entails sending information about the Cornell Law Career Services to approximately 2,000 alumni both in and out of the country. DeRosa stated that an increased number of alumni have contacted the office for assistance and advice.
placement rates.”
The Career Services office has placed emphasis on increasing the number of employment opportunities available. One of their current efforts entails sending information about the Cornell Law Career Services to approximately 2,000 alumni both in and out of the country. DeRosa stated that an increased number of alumni have contacted the office for assistance and advice.
Since students graduating this year began the recruiting process two years in advance, those who have jobs were able to acquire them before the economic decline. However, since the process involving job fairs and on-campus recruiting is currently only in its early stages of registration, first year and second year law students have been more directly affected.
“I didn’t even apply for a position over the summer, since the ones I wanted are usually reserved for second year law students,” Nicolette Ward law ‘11 said. “Before, there used to be a handful of positions open, but now they are not hiring as many.”
Richard Robinson, associate dean for administration and finance at the Law School, said that unlike some other schools at the University, the Law School is heavily tuition-dependent without grants and contracts.
The administration will utilize discretionary sources to strategically determine the allocation of funds, Robinson said. It is aiming to create reductions with effects on the administration, not on service, he added.
The law school will freeze the salaries of professors and reduce the number of visiting faculty in addition to halting its planned building renovations that were subject to the University’s construction pause, Robinson said.
“We are looking for a cut in law school and operating budgets next year and to scale back a little bit, cutting back on administrative costs,” he said, “We will shift funding around to cover those programs that endowment did fund [such as scholarships]. Overall, it is a belt-tightening process to reexamine our budgets without a direct effect on the basic delivery of education to the students. We are being cautious on commitments for next year and we have to wait and see what’s going to happen,” Robinson said.

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