|Volume XXVIII Issue 9||October 31, 2002|
University considers beginning law school
Colin Donohue - Sports Editor
A new law school may rest on the horizon for Elon University, as the New Century @ Elon Plan continues its expansion. The law school will address the portion of the plan dealing with the development of new and distinctive graduate programs, Provost Gerald Francis said.
The addition of a law school remains in its fledgling stages, and President Leo Lambert assigned Francis to head an upcoming feasibility study to examine the costs of facilitating a new law school on campus, as well as the annual maintenance costs of the school. The study should also provide an assessment of the market, the mission and the expectations of North Carolinaís American Bar Association. Francis and Lambert could not comment on how the money for a law school would be acquired.
"We are only at the stage of putting together a committee to conduct a feasibility study to examine all issues surrounding the establishment of a law school," said Lambert. Elon hired Leary Davis, the founding dean of a law school at another university, as a consultant, Lambert added. Davis is on the faculty at Campbell University.
The possible addition of a law school will most likely not affect tuition, Lambert said. "A law school would have to be financially self-sufficient. That is, the tuition paid by a law students would have to cover the expenses of law faculty and a law library."
Regardless of whether a new law school pans out, Elonís main focus will remain undergraduate studies. There will continue to be a dividing line between graduate and undergraduate work. "I believe Elon should remain principally an undergraduate university, and the graduate programs should be considered only if they are distinctive and of high quality," Lambert said.
Since undergraduate work is the institutionís number one priority, Francis said, the law school would require a new building with a different faculty. This separation would not disrupt the ebb and flow of the undergraduate portion of the institution. At this time, Francis does not know where another building would be built.
The idea of implementing a law school graduate program at Elon originated in 1997. A committee chaired by Dr. Judith Howard, associate professor of education and director of the MED program, set up processes for initiating new graduate programs, including a law school, Francis said. But only in the last year has Lambert and Francis seriously tossed around the idea of a school.
Francis said there are two main motivating factors for considering the establishment of a law school. "One is that thereís an upturn in the number of students wanting and applying to go to law school. Two is the state of North Carolina serving all of the students that want to go [to law school]. Weíre importing rather than growing our own, so thereís a market there."
Francis said the feasibility should be ready for the Board of Trustees to review by late May or June. Francis will also present the study to the graduate counsel, the curriculum committee and the faculty.
Francis said he hopes a law school will draw students from all over the country. Other institutions in North Carolina, such as Liberty University and Queens College in Charlotte, are following suit with the possible creation of new law schools.
According to Francis, the draw to Elonís law school will be its experiential learning aspect. "When youíre finished, youíve not only had the courses, but youíve had clerkships, youíve had internships, youíve actually practiced, and that youíve flat passed that bar exam and everybodyís going to want you because youíre good," Francis said.
Lambert and Francis assert a new law school is not directly tied to Elonís push for Phi Beta Kappa accreditation, but they said they hope it will bolster studies in the arts and sciences. "This is not directly related to [Phi Beta Kappa]," Lambert said. "Although, it would be my hope that the presence of a law school might encourage more students to consider a major in an arts and sciences discipline."
In any event, Elonís push for a new law school will be contingent on the boardís decision in early 2003, but Francis is pleased the university is studying the topic now.
"If you have leadership responsibilities, you need to be looking at the future of the institution, not just today. And so I think our position on this more than anything else is, in the year 2010, I donít think this institution should look back and say Ö in 2002, we shouldíve been considering a law school.
"Iíd rather us look at it right now and then make an educated, informed decision that this is a good idea, this is not a good idea, this is something we can afford, this is something we canít afford or maybe this is something we canít afford not to do."
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