"I'm going to law school." The phrase is uttered with increasing frequency on college campuses these days. Sometimes it's said with resignation; more often, with enthusiasm.

The law, perhaps more than any other profession, has captured the imagination of graduating college students. Of the 1600 students graduating form Harvard College today, at least 100 plan to enter law school next fall. And dozens more will enroll after a few years abroad or in the workforce.

Last year, law schools across the country received more than 443,000 applications from 92,000 would-be lawyers. And the numbers are rising steadily. The Law School Admissions Council reports that applications increased about 27 percent over the past five years.

The trend is just one aspect of a society's love-hate relationship with the legal profession.

Public opinion polls consistently show that Americans hold lawyers in low regard, and yet they seem drawn to movies and TV shows about the law.


There are countless prime time shows about lawyers, including the award-winning L.A. Law. There are best-selling novels (The Firm), movies (Presumed Innocent), fake TV trials (Divorce Court) and real TV trails (the William Kennedy Smith rape case). There's even Court TV, A 24-hour cable channel devoted to coverage of the courts. F

This national craze apparently influenced the nearly 130,000 students currently enrolled in law schools is finally beginning to level off after two decades of dramatic growth.

For some of these new students, attending law school is a childhood dream come true.

For other graduates, it is merely a safe way to spend the next three years.

Richard B. Buery Jr. '92 says he plans to attend law school because he doesn't know what he wants to do with his life.

"I think it's a good thing to do, It will be a good education, in lieu of a more exciting career path," he says.

Career counselors and law professors say they are encountering more and more students like Buery lately. With the recession lingering, many seniors have decided to avoid the shaky job market and try their luck at law school.

"People felt if they went to law school for three years they could ride out the recession with an enabling degree," says Dena O. Raykoff, assistant director of the Office of Career Services.

But for most students, going to law school is much more than a default decision. They find law school attractive for a variety of complex reasons.

Students frequently have noble intentions. They say a law degree will help them "effect positive social change" and fight injustice.

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