Early signs suggest a 'Trump Bump' in law school interest

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From the decision on DACA to questions about conflicts of interest, Donald Trump’s presidency has placed big legal questions in the limelight -- and it seems to be having an impact on law schools.

Arizona State University's semi-annual "ASU Law Day" for prospective students and parents drew its largest crowd yet. 

[RELATED: ASU president releases statement regarding DACA]

Among the audience was Jennifer Valdez, who was born in Guatemala and came to the United States when she was 3 years old. She said she felt a push to pursue law while watching President Donald Trump’s travel ban and his actions on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy known as DACA.

“Coming from a Hispanic background, you want to make that difference— big or small,” Valdez said. “I was a naturalized citizen, thankfully. However, it comes close to the heart. It’s a little emotional to talk about because I see the suffering that it’s caused.”

Valdez said she wants to study immigration law to address the suffering felt by some of her relatives and friends. And she is not the only prospective law student who is motivated by strong feelings about presidential politics.

For years, the number of students studying for the Law School Admission Test, or LSAT, was on a steady decline. But in June, there was a 20 percent jump in students taking the test -- the biggest single-year jump in eight years.

In a survey of test takers by Blueprint, a test preparation company, 52 percent said that Donald Trump’s presidency played a role in their decision to apply to law school.

“The number of areas where law has been suddenly at the forefront or the absolute center of the kinds of disputes that are really capturing people's imagination has really increased,” ASU Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law dean Doug Sylvester said.

Sylvester said that there was a big dip in applications after the great recession at law schools across the country, but that this fall ASU enrolled its largest class ever. A total of 170 people attended ASU Law Day including 130 prospective students -- also the biggest crowd yet.

“This is a really passionate generation. And the more we talk to them, the more we find out that what they care about more than anything is making a difference in their community. If what you want to do is change the world, you need to know how the law works,” Sylvester said.

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Derek StaahlDerek Staahl is an Emmy Award-winning reporter and fill-in anchor who loves covering stories that matter most to Arizona families.

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Derek Staahl

This once-uncompromising "California guy" got his first taste of Arizona in 2015 while covering spring training baseball for his former station. The trip spanned just three days, but Derek quickly decided Phoenix should be his next address. He joined CBS 5 and 3TV four months later, in August 2015. Before packing his bags for the Valley of the Sun, Derek spent nearly four years at XETV in San Diego, where he was promoted to Weekend Anchor and Investigative Reporter. Derek chaired the Saturday and Sunday 10 p.m. newscasts, which regularly earned the station's highest ratings for a news program each week. Derek’s investigative reporting efforts into the Mayor Bob Filner scandal in 2013 sparked a "governance crisis" for the city of San Diego and was profiled by the region’s top newspaper. Derek broke into the news business at WKOW-TV in Madison, WI. He wrote, shot, edited, and presented stories during the week, and produced newscasts on the weekends. By the end of his stint, he was promoted to part-time anchor on WKOW’s sister station, WMSN. Derek was born in Los Angeles and was named the “Undergraduate Broadcast Journalism Student of the Year” in his graduating class at USC. He also played quads in the school’s famous drumline. When not reporting the news, Derek enjoys playing drumset, sand volleyball, and baseball.

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