At St. Olaf, we believe that a broad liberal arts education is the best preparation for a career in law. The most successful students and practitioners of law are well-rounded individuals who are able to think and express themselves with skill and creativity. For this reason, there is no set pre-law curriculum and students are discouraged from trying to limit their undergraduate education to the narrow field of legal studies. Rather, those interested in attending law school are encouraged to pursue a broad program of study that strengthens their abilities in writing, reading, speaking, and analysis. Students can pursue this type of broad learning through any department in the college, not just the traditional pre-law majors of political science, history and philosophy.
Guided by a shared commitment to the liberal arts, the Pre-Law Advisory Committee and the Piper Center for Vocation and Career work together closely to help students explore legal careers, address the law school application process, connect with alumni working in the field, and obtain valuable legal internship experience. Pre-law advisers help students learn more about the career of law, provide information on law applications, scholarships, joint degree programs, and law-related careers. Throughout the year the Piper Center organizes events with alumni to speak about their work and study, holds law school information workshops, and arranges visits from law school recruiters. The Piper Center houses information on internships in the field of law, a library of law school resources, and materials on preparation for the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). A special Pre-Law Bulletin Board is located on the third floor of Holland Hall. It contains information from the Pre-Law Advisory Committee and the Piper Center concerning law, careers in law, and law schools.
Oles in Law School
Over the past five years, St. Olaf students and graduates have been accepted to 20 of the top 22 law schools according to the 2014 rankings of Best Law Schools in U.S. News & World Report (the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities is currently tied for 20th with two other universities). In the most recent application cycle, St. Olaf students were admitted to 11 of these leading institutions: Columbia University, University of Chicago, New York University, University of California-Berkeley, Duke University, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Georgetown University, Vanderbilt University, Washington University in St. Louis, George Washington University, and the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
The total number of St. Olaf applicants in 2012-2013 was 27, holding constant from the prior year (2011-2012). St. Olaf’s most recent peak number of applicants occurred in 2009-2010 and included 61 individuals; the following year only 30 students and graduates applied to law school. This peak and more recent decline in candidates both reflect national trends. In 2012-2013, the total number of national applicants to ABA accredited institutions dropped to 59,384 individuals, representing a 12.5% decrease in applicants and continuing a 3-year decline. In the 2012-2013 application cycle, 23 of 27 students were accepted to one or more law schools, yielding an acceptance rate of 85.2%. The current rate represents a decrease from last year’s 92.6% acceptance rate and falls below the previous 4-year (2008-2012) average St. Olaf acceptance rate of 88.4%. Nationally, the acceptance rate to one or more law schools increased to 76.9% in the current cycle, exceeding the 2011-2012 rate of 74.5% and significantly surpassing the previous 4-year average (2008-2012) of 70.4%. During the most recent cycle, St. Olaf students were 8.3% more likely to be accepted to at least one law school than the national average. This represents a narrowing of the gap from 2011-2012, when St. Olaf students exceeded the national acceptance rate by 18.1%. Despite the drop in percentage of applicants admitted to at least one law school, the average number of successful admissions per Ole increased this year from 3.70 to 4.26.
The average number of applications in 2012-2013 was 8.3 applications per St. Olaf student, aligning with the 2011-2012 average of 8.4. Of the 225 applications submitted by St. Olaf students this year, 115 were accepted for a net acceptance rate of 51.1%, an increase from last year’s acceptance rate of 44.1%. On the national level, 43.7% of applications were accepted. 18 St. Olaf students are matriculating in 2012-2013 (78.3% of admitted St. Olaf applicants and 66.7% of total St. Olaf applicants). Overall, St. Olaf alumni are currently pursuing legal education at some of the most prestigious law schools in the country, including 1 student at Harvard, 1 at Northwestern University, 1 at Washington University, 1 at Georgetown University, 1 at Stanford University, and 6 at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. The number of Oles currently in law school dropped significantly this year as the 47 students who matriculated in the 2009-2010 cycle graduated this year and the most recent 3 cycles of applicants are significantly lower, in line with national trends. Currently, the law schools with the most St. Olaf graduates are William Mitchell (9), the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (6), and the University of St. Thomas (5).