The University of St. Francis at Fort Wayne has been exploring the possiblity of establishing a law school in Fort Wayne. Indiana State University at Terre Haute had also been studying the possibility of establishing a law school in addition to the four already operating in Indiana.
As prior Fort Wayne Observed and Indiana Parley posts have noted: among the reasons for creating a new law school is that the costs of doing so are substantially less than the start-up costs for establishment of any other post-graduate professional school.
The market is not exactly crying out for the creation of more lawyers. Yet, the pace of law school creation around the country is not abating.
Peter Lattman and Amir Efrati pose and then answer a question about the burgeoning number of law schools in today's Wall Street Journal:
[H]ere is another question: Why are so many law schools starting up?
Since 1995, the American Bar Association has accredited 19 law schools for a total of 196, seven in the last two years. That compares with three schools that received accreditation in the decade before 1995. Experts say the increase can be traced to the settlement that year of an antitrust suit brought against the ABA by the Justice Department, which claimed the group was restricting accreditation attempts by for-profit schools, among others. (Most states require bar-exam takers to graduate from ABA-accredited schools.)
The ABA denied wrongdoing but agreed to change its practices. Before the deal, "the whole point of ABA accreditation was to limit the number of lawyers," says Andrew Morriss, a law professor at the University of Illinois. "With the legal education cartel forced to back off, part of the demand [of aspiring law students] was met."
The ABA said its "role is not to assess the reasons for founding a school, but rather is to evaluate whether the school meets standards we have identified as appropriate and necessary."
A total of four law schools have opened in Virginia and the Carolinas in the last few years. Leary Davis, founding dean of the law school started last year at Elon University, in Greensboro, N.C., says starting that school cost about $15 million and would have cost more but it got a former library building as a gift.
Another reason for the growth: Some universities think starting a law school gives them prestige. Plus, they're moneymakers, in part because faculty costs are low compared with other disciplines and classrooms can be large, says Richard Matasar, dean of New York Law School in Manhattan.
My own opinion is that a University of St. Francis law school might very well be successfully established if it serves up a needed model of legal education that is differentiated from much of the rest of the law school "market." A school with much more of an emphasis on a clinical skills may be a part of that success. Indications are that St. Francis officials are being very deliberate in their analysis of the needs that a law school would serve and will move forward if such a school is not duplicative of other Indiana institutions.
There is much less justification for a new state-supported university law school at Terre Haute.