Founded in 1859, University of Michigan Law School is one of the oldest law schools in the nation. In 1870, Michigan became the first major law school to admit a woman and the second to confer a law degree on an African American. In 1871, its graduate Sarah Killgore became the first woman with a law degree in the nation to be admitted to the bar. Great pride is taken in the school’s non privileged inception.

Today, Michigan is renowned for its top-ranked graduate schools in business, medicine, engineering, music, social work, public policy and, of course, law.

Below is the 5-page transcript of our interview with Sarah Zearfoss, Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions. Dean Zearfoss is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and of the University of Michigan Law School.

What new changes are occurring on campus and how is University of Michigan Law School evolving?

While support of public service and public interest leadership is an indelible part of our tradition, we’re redoubling that support by developing new programs to encourage students to engage in public service and pro bono practice, and we offer substantial career-counseling services as well as financial support.  Relatedly, in addition to our considerable existing clinical offerings, we have created new offerings for mediation and for pediatric healthcare advocacy (the latter being an interdisciplinary clinic in which medical and law students participate jointly).

We continue to expand our international and transnational perspective while offering more upper-division courses emphasizing corporate specialties and skills, e.g., Business Transaction Practicum I & II, Anatomy of a Deal, The Board of Directors.  The upper- level courses are offered to students after establishing a strong foundation in legal writing, reasoning, negotiating, and counseling skills in our first-year Legal Practice Program, taught by nine full-time professors. This year, we have also expanded Legal Practice into elective upper-division transactional drafting classes, and we will also offer a class on Securities Regulations Drafting.

All of these efforts are designed to foster legal expertise and social commitment grounded in the complex, multidisciplinary world of modern legal practice.

Last year, applications for your law school increased by 2%. Are you seeing any early indications of how this year’s application volume may compare to the 2003-2004 season? How about the demographic make up of the applicant pool?

Last year, applications to the University of Michigan Law School increased by a fairly modest 2%, but we were pleased that the quality of the pool — whether measured by objective LSAT/GPA factors or by the more nebulous “soft factors” — was even more exceptional than in the recent past.  While it is too early to make an informed comparison between this season and last, we do anticipate modest growth coinciding with the growth in the young adult population nationally — we’ll continue to experience the “echo of the baby boom” for another dozen years or so.

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