Study indicates jump in law school interest after election, WU responds

Kathleen White | News Editor

This winter Kaplan Test Prep, noticing an uptick in law school applicants, conducted a nationwide survey of 537 pre-law students. The survey concluded that a potential reason for the jump in the number of law school applications this year was the 2016 presidential election.

Similar to other schools across the nation, the Washington University School of Law has experienced an increase in applications, according to Assistant Dean for Admissions Mary Ann Clifford.

“I don’t know if [Trump’s election] is directly the reason why candidates are applying,” Clifford said. “I will say that we have had many conversations with pre-law candidates, candidates who are applying to law school, and some of them have told us that is what has inspired them to go on to law school.”

According to Washington University School of Law Dean Nancy Staudt, the law school has retained strong application numbers for several years.

“The applicants and current students, however, continually express a very high level of excitement for using their legal training to transform law and policy in a positive way,” Staudt wrote in an email to Student Life.

Current Washington University undergraduates and members of the pre-law fraternity, Phi Delta Phi, junior Joey Vettiankal and freshman Elizabeth Phelan both felt influenced by the results of the 2016 election to pursue law.

“Back during the 2016 election, I was deciding between pre-med and pre-law because I was majoring in political science but I was taking courses like chemistry. With all the divisive rhetoric that was coming out of the Trump campaign, it was a call to action for me,” Vettiankal wrote in a statement to Student Life. “I thought about how our elected officials are very homogenous in terms of diversity and how we needed more representation in the people who represent us. I saw law as a means to become an advocate for others and also give back to those who need it.”

“[I] realized that [Trump’s election] could actually be an opportunity for me to make a difference in the world, an opportunity for me to go positively impact the country that is my home,” Phelan said. “I realized the biggest way I could make an impact by directly becoming part of the political scene myself, and I can do that by going to law school.”

Both Vettiankal and Phelan also felt spurred to become more politically active outside of their decisions to pursue law.

“I got involved with organizations like the [American Civil Liberties Union] to see how I could do my part and combine my passion for civil rights law and advocacy,” Vettiankal wrote.

“I’m very heavily involved in Model UN on campus, which is another politics-based activity. I’m also involved in debate and a lot of other public speaking-type things,” Phelan said. “I think the biggest thing I’m involved with now is the Roosevelt Institute, which is a policy writing club where students can write pieces of policy, policy memos, things of that nature which actually have the potential to be passed and implemented and to make a difference.”

Clifford recommends that undergraduate students visit the University’s law school and talk to admissions if they are interested in pursuing law.

“It is a big decision when thinking about law school and we would be happy to offer any information or assistance that we can,” she said.