The campus budget crunch -- spiraling costs and less government aid -- is likely to be felt among area law firms.

Columbia University Law School last month sent letters to about 500 firms who recruit there during autumn's firm-student mating season, asking them for $200 for every day they interview on campus.

University of California's Boalt Hall Law School in Berkeley last year for $150 a day and raised abut $30,000. So far about 35 firms have responded to Columbia, said Howardk Maltby, head of the placement office, and only a handful refused to contribute.

Georgetown's placement director, Abbie Thorner, is certain there will be a trend for scrimping schools to ask firms to contribute. It can cost larger schools more than $100,000 a year to help students find jobs. Georgetown's employer directory alone costs about $14,000 to print. But the schools are skittish about asking.

Yale last year considered asking firms for money but, after getting a negative response from a poll of firms and alumni, decided against it. "It was something the alumni didn't think Yale should be out in front on," said Yale Dean James Zirkle.

"The law firms themselves are very concerned about increased costs of recruitment," Thorner said. Recruiting costs for law firms run as high as $250,000 as partners travel to as many as 25 schools to wine and dine and throw lavish cocktail parties for the top law-school talent -- all that to hire perhaps a half-dozen lawyers.

An extra few thousand dollars isn't much for a large firm, but many firms have been grumbling lately about increased costs for office space, computers and the spiraling salaries they have to pay new associates.

If the name law schools all asked for contributions, or even if the demand fees, there is probably little that the big firms could do, said Christine White, who runs recruitment for Steptoe & Johnson. cThe competition is too strong for top students.

Although the name schools probably could get away with charging fees, smaller or lesser league schools like George Washington or Catholic University, are reluctant to do anything that might dissuade law firms from coming to their campuses.

However, George Washington placement director Lynn Hiner said costs have "gotten out of control" in recent years and George Washington and other schools might jump on if a bandwagon occurs.