With applications down appreciably for the first time in a decade, the nation's law schools are suddenly putting more muscle into recruiting students.

Accordingly, 92 law schools -- more than half the 174 approved nationwide by the American Bar Association -- will be represented at the Graduate and Professional School Fair tomorrow at George Washington University. The annual two-day recruitment fair, whose participants Wednesday will feature 110 business, arts and science schools, is being billed as the largest such event in the country.

Thomas White, president of the Law School Admissions Services, which administers the LSATs and processes law school applications, says explanations for last year's 12 percent drop in applications -- similar to those felt by business and medical schools -- are largely speculative.

Among the factors blamed are demographics (there are fewer 22- and 23-year-olds in the post-baby boom generation), rising tuition, the decrease in federal financial aid (except for work-study packages which, he says, are generally not suited to the heavy course loads of graduate students), the leveling off of the number of female students (which rose over the past decade from about 5 to 40 percent), and a healthier economy (the number of law school applications has traditionally fluctuated in inverse proportion to the strength of the economy).

Most hurt so far have been the state law schools. A few (5 to 10) are facing immediate budget problems as a result, says White. But for most schools, the major concern at this point is maintaining the quality, not quantity, of their student bodies.

Recruitment efforts, White says, have generally taken the form of getting better information out to prospective students and of targeting second-career applicants who have not been given much attention in the past.

The Graduate and Professional School Fair is sponsored by 10 metropolitan Washington area colleges and universities.

For further information about the fair, call Andrea Stewart at (202) 676-6217.