Law school enrollment in Missouri lags as legal jobs dry up

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Missouri law schools expect fewer students in the fall after several years of significant enrollment growth both regionally and nationally.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported this week that the University of Missouri's flagship campus in Columbia has received 17 percent fewer applications this year. Applications at Washington University dropped 13.3 percent, while St. Louis University is seeing a nearly 20 percent decline.

A national group that tracks law school enrollment says that applications are down more than 10 percent overall compared to this time last year.

The economic downturn means that law school graduates can no longer count on landing lucrative jobs straight out of college. The declining interest comes one year after many schools reported record enrollment.

"The stories about the legal market have certainly dampened some people's enthusiasm," said Paul Pless, assistant dean for admissions and financial aid at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Law. Applications at Illinois are down nearly 8 percent so far this year.

Melissa Hamilton, 35, is a recent University of Missouri law school graduate still looking for a job. She's applied for a few government positions but is waiting until she passes the bar exam before making a stronger push. She's also looking into jobs where she could also use her master's degree in social work.

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