Winter 2019 Gavel Gavel Winter 2019 - Page 22

WORKING TO FACE THE CHALLENGES AND MEET THE NEEDS OF THE SCHOOL OF LAW Brad Myers, Interim Dean University of North Dakota School of Law At the UND School of Law, we expect our new dean will start work for the 2019-2020 academic year. While the hope for any new administrator is to have some time to ease into the position, our next leader will not have that luxury. While we continue to offer a strong program of legal education, budget cuts and other developments over the last couple of years have stretched our ability to continue to deliver a top-notch legal education. The American Bar Association (ABA) will be making an accreditation visit in 2021, and we have begun the process of making sure our entire operation complies with ABA standards, many of which have changed recently. Let me take a little time to talk about law school accreditation. The ABA Section of Legal Education & Admissions to the Bar accredits the School of Law. With some minor exceptions, if a law school is not accredited, its graduates cannot sit for the bar exam. The accreditation process compares a law school’s operations to the extensive ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools. ABA standards are very specific and enforced diligently. Law schools are the most highly regulated discipline in higher education. 22 THE GAVEL The ABA takes its role of protecting students from substandard educational institutions very seriously. Within the last couple years, the ABA withdrew accreditation from Charlotte Law School, Indiana Tech, and Arizona Summit. (These schools are now closed, as is Savannah Law School, bringing the number to seven closed law schools, counting the Mitchell Hamline merger and Whittier’s plan to close by 2020. And there are more in danger). A host of other schools have received censure, required remedial action, faced findings of significant noncompliance, or were placed on report- back status, including the University of South Dakota School of Law. While many of these schools look drastically different from UND (very low bar passage rate or significantly lower student attributes), we would be negligent if we did not look at the issues raised at those schools concerning finances, students, faculty, and staff. On the finance front, the School of Law, like the rest of the University, has been asked to find ways to either increase revenue or further reduce expenses. The University raised law school tuition over the last two years with another increase slated for next year. Even with these increases, revenue from tuition does not come close to covering the expenses of operating the School of Law. I do believe, strongly, the School of Law continues to takes its fiduciary duty to be a wise steward of the taxpayers’ money. Those of you who have seen our building addition have seen how much we could do with relatively little. Finding the correct tuition level is a major challenge. The name of the game in higher education recruiting right now is discounting. Set a higher tuition level and then use scholarships and tuition waivers to make the perspective students feel special enough to come to your institution. Currently, we have minimal ability to offer any kind of recruitment dollars and we lose students each year to those places that can. Generous contributions from our alumni and friends have certainly helped in this regard. Our ability to attract students is subject to demographic changes resulting in greater competition. We just have fewer potential students. Our financial projections plan on a first-year class of 85 students. Since 2012, only about 100 North Dakota students take the LSAT annually. Some of those do not apply to UND and some of the others do not qualify for admission. UND needs students from elsewhere to fill a first-year class. As our tuition goes up, we lose a competitive advantage making it more difficult to attract students from elsewhere. Crucial to recruiting students is the ability to offer them field placement experiences outside of Grand Forks. The School of Law