Survey: Over half the nation's pre-law students are interested in being politicians

The 2016 survey showed student's interest in running for political office increased by 15 percentage points from 2012

A Kaplan Test Prep survey of over 500 pre-law college students across the country found that 53 percent of students surveyed were interested in running for political office at some point in the future.

This represents a large increase from a 2012 survey, where only 38 percent of students said they had an interest in politics. However, it’s just shy of the 54 percent that said they were interested in 2008, following Barack Obama’s first election.

“It's clear to us that the recent presidential election affected students’ views on running for political office,” Jeff Thomas, Kaplan Test Prep’s executive director of pre-law programs said in an email.

“Presidential elections last about two years — from when the first candidates announce their runs to the inauguration — so it’s natural for pre-law students to think they can also make a difference,” Thomas said.

According to a press release from Kaplan Test Prep, 35 percent of the current members of Congress have a law degree. According to the press release, while lawyers are still the most represented profession in Congress, their numbers have declined from a high of 59 percent in 1965.

report done by the Congressional Research Service in 2012 said that as the share of lawyers in the House of Representatives declined, an increase in members with a banking or business background rose.

The same report notes a similar trend in the U.S. Senate, however it also notes that overall, there is less occupational variety in the Senate than in the House.

“There is a centuries old tradition of attorneys going into politics because, as a civil society, we are a nation of laws," Thomas said. "Those most passionate about setting policy are those who know the law best."

According to the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), the non-profit responsible for providing the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) to hopeful law students, ASU is eighth on their list “Top 240 American Bar Association Feeder Schools."

With 437 law school applicants in the 2015-2016 school year, ASU is the “eighth largest source of law school applicants from any undergraduate institution in the entire country,” Thomas said.

According to LSAC’s Top 240 ranking, The University of Arizona produced 264 applicants over the same time period, and Northern Arizona University produced 84 applicants.

Kevin Torge, a law student at Brooklyn Law School who did his undergraduate studies at ASU, thinks lawyers have enough representation in Congress.

“It's never been required for Congress members to know the law, and it's not their duty to write legal law. That's what we (have) the judiciary for,” Torge said in an email.

Torge said that the support staff that members of Congress have is enough of a resource that every member doesn’t need a law degree.

“It's good to have a balance of lawyers, community leaders, military leaders, business, etc.,” Torge said.

Steve Latino, a public policy junior at ASU, said he has plans to go to law school. Latino thinks that having a law degree is a good start to a political career, but noted that Congress doesn't necessarily need more trial lawyers.

"I think that having a law degree can help (in) Congress but I don't think we need practice attorneys. Lawyers who are CEOs or environmental lobbyist(s) could be a great benefit to this legislative body," Latino said.

He said part of the reason he wanted to go to law school was to continue to help his community, like he did when he was a soldier.

"I feel the best way to do this is to create positive change through effective policy making," Latino said. "Going to law school will allow me to build understand and create laws and policies and give me the the skills to write new ones."


Reach the reporter at politics.statepress@gmail.com or follow @chriswood_311 on Twitter.

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