Wednesday, April 23, 2014

New Law School Eschews Traditional Approach To Legal Ed.

Huffington Post recently ran an article discussing a new law school: UNT Dallas College of Law.

Judge Royal Furgeson, the founding dean of UNT Dallas College of law, says that the school will have an  "unconventional ethos — to cultivate lawyers as public servants. The method? Eschew national rankings, deflate tuition, welcome the 'rejects' and teach real skills. 'We want to train lawyers that want to be lawyers for the right reasons,' Furgeson says."

While some believe that there are too many lawyers, "'[t]he legal industry has never been able to offer sufficient resources to the poor, [Judge Furgeson] says, and neither has it properly served the middle class or small businesses. The profession needs to come to grips with the fact that we’re not providing legal services to a vast majority of our people,' he says. 'You think of how many people are struggling out there, how many people are working at the margins. Something bad happens to the wage earner and it immediately becomes a terrible problem, so there’s a massive need in our community for better and more access to legal services.'”

According to Furgeson, "[t]he key to cultivating such lionhearted lawyers lies in UNT’s innovative approach, which begins with rock-bottom tuition. 'Affordability has to be a core value,' says Ellen Pryor, who left an endowed professorship at the Southern Methodist University (SMU) Dedman School of Law in Dallas for the opportunity to launch a new movement at UNT. 'We have to make this a thriving value. It’s essential to everything.'"

American Bar Association data shows that "the average annual cost of attending a public law school skyrocketed from $2,006 in 1985 to $23,214 in 2012 — an increase of more than 1,000 percent in less than 20 years. (Private law school costs jumped from $7,526 to $40,634 over the same period.)"

And Judge Furgeson said that he "was very concerned that earnest, sincere young people who really wanted to be lawyers were starting out with such crushing debt that they didn’t have a lot of alternatives."

"Furgeson and his admissions staff are relying less on GPA and LSAT scores — the gold standard for most law school admissions because of the impact high scores have on schools’ national rankings — in favor of recommendations and life experience."

And UNT will offer practical legal education. "The intent is to equip graduates to handle cases in high-need areas. To ensure that students are mastering objectives, teachers will also utilize frequent assessments, rather than giving a single exam at the conclusion of each course, as is common practice."

UNT has one great thing going for it -- keeping tuition low! The only way that the graduates from this school will have a fighting chance to meet the school's mission in the current legal market will be to keep them out of debt. And it looks like the founding members of UNT understand this. Good luck to all!

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