Friday May 19, 2006

Bucking a National Trend

Law school applications are down 3 percent nationwide. But, UD's applications are up 14 percent thanks to a summer start, two-year option and curriculum changes.

Tyler Suttle could lay claim to being one of the nation's busiest students. In one week, he took final exams, participated in the University of Dayton School of Law's orientation, graduated from Eastern Kentucky University and started law school.

Suttle is among 40 students taking advantage of the American Bar Association's change to law school curricula that allows students to complete a law degree in five semesters rather than six. The UD law school's summer start, believed to be the first in the nation, allows students to finish in two calendar years instead of the traditional three.

The summer start and new "Lawyer as Problem Solver" curriculum has helped spur a 14 percent increase in applications from a year ago. Nationally, applications to law schools are down 3 percent.

"Two years of courses is really appealing," Suttle said. "Why wait? I can get into the workforce quicker.

"I'd be bored sitting at home working a job I probably wouldn't like," he added.

Suttle admitted he second-guessed his decision just once — during his final exams because he was trying to coordinate his move to Dayton at the same time. He said, now that his heart's settled, he's glad he chose this route.

For others like Lubirda Allen, "time is of the essence." Allen, 60, said she intended to go to law school in her 20s before being sidetracked by a divorce and raising her four children.

"I want to be able to do something with a law degree," Allen said.

Maxim Maximov was in Riga, Latvia, teaching Judaic studies and lived around the corner from a law school. While researching law schools, he found UD's two-year option and decided to look into it, realizing he's "not a spring chicken." As soon as he wrapped up his Latvian school year, he jumped right into law school halfway around the globe.

Maximov said UD appealed to him because "it's user-friendly and places an emphasis on ethics."

Brendan Neal didn't want to wait either. After graduating from Eureka College in May 2005, Neal spent six months coaching baseball in Switzerland. He said the summer program was very influential in his choice of law schools.

"This is very convenient," Neal said. "If I had waited until the fall, it would have been too big of a break. Maybe I would have lost some study habits."

Lori Shaw, dean of students, said the summer start allows students to avoid the rush of everyone returning to campus in August. Faculty can dedicate more time to the needs of one class for three months.

"It helps their transition to law school," she said.

Janet Hein, assistant dean and director of admission, said this group is one of the highest academically ranked, most interesting and diverse classes to recently enter the law school.

Six of UD's newest law students graduated from Wright State University in Fairborn, Ohio, while five graduated from Ohio University in Athens. Other students hail from California, Texas and Utah. The average age of the class is 26. Two-thirds of the class are non-traditional students, or those choosing law as a second career.

For more information, contact Shawn Robinson at (937) 229-3391.