Royal Furgeson and Ellen Pryor 2014-02-25 18:30:58
The UNT Dallas College of Law, which opens this fall, wants to provide a top-notch law education at a low-cost tuition price. THE UNT DALLAS COLLEGE OF LAW SEATS ITS INAUGURAL CLASS THIS FALL. As dean and associate academic dean of the new law school, we welcome this chance to describe the school and our program. Where, when, and how many students? We are located in downtown Dallas at 1901 Main Street, in a historic building that housed the Titche-Goettinger department store. The University of North Texas System purchased the building several years ago and recently completed a $29 million renovation—a major event in the continuing revitalization of the east end of downtown Dallas. The law school is primarily located on the first, second, fifth, and sixth floors. Our first class is slated for Fall 2014, and we are currently accepting student applications. We envision a fulltime day section of 60 to 80 students and a part-time evening section of 40 to 60 students. We do not plan to enroll more than a total of 120 students in the day and evening programs combined. This will continue to be the size of our program for the foreseeable future. The process of American Bar Association accreditation cannot occur until after a law school opens; thus, like all new law schools, we will begin as an unaccredited institution. 1 After a year of operation, we will apply for provisional approval. Provisional accreditation, if granted, takes place in the fall or spring of a school’s third year of operation. Graduates of a provisionally approved school “are entitled to the same recognition that is accorded graduates of fully approved schools.”2 Although we cannot represent that we will obtain provisional approval, we will take all necessary steps and devote all necessary resources to provide a program of legal education that will qualify for approval. The UNT College of Law has several core goals, including: (1) Widen access to legal education for those who could be excellent legal professionals but cannot realistically access a legal education given factors including cost, location, and the current dominance of the LSAT in the admissions process and in obtaining scholarships; (2) Exhibit excellence in developing practice-related competencies, through a curriculum mapped to those competencies and through best instructional practices, including multiple assessments; and (3) Create opportunity for our students by keeping tuition and debt as low as possible, consistent with Goal 2, and by producing graduates with competencies valuable in multiple segments of the legal services market. The remainder of this article gives more details relating to these goals; space constraints do not permit discussion of our fourth goal—to serve as a vital partner to the civic and legal community of North Texas. Affordability:We are able to set tuition for our entering class at $14,040 per year for in-state Texas resident students. Our Board of Regents has also approved a tuition waiver of $1,500 for each student so that net tuition will be $12,540 per year—almost one-half the national average. Setting affordable tuition now and in the future will be a core value for us. In September 2013, the ABA’s Task Force on the Future of Legal Education published a draft report and recommendations,3 which identified tuition price and its “relentless increase” as one of the most profound problems facing legal education today.4 From 1985 to 2012, the average price of tuition for resident students at America’s public law schools rose from $2,006 per year to $23,214 per year, an increase of more than 1,000 percent. 5 The task force also noted that the problem has “no simple and easy solution.”6 As a startup law school without legacy costs, we have an opportunity to keep tuition as low as possible, consistent with our educational goals. Not only do we intend to keep tuition affordable, we also intend to have a different tuition structure. As the ABA task force report explained, law school education is funded through a complex system of tuition, discounting, and loans. “A currently widespread practice is for a school to announce nominal tuition rates, and then chase certain high LSAT/GPA students by offering substantial discounts (styled as scholarships) without regard to financial need.”7 Students with lesser indicators receive little discounting and pay the full rate, almost always with borrowed funds. The result is a cross-subsidy between students with lower entering credentials and the students with higher credentials who attend at discounted rates. The task force report stated that these practices “are in need of serious re-engineering.”8 We will decline to use one student’s tuition payment to discount that of another student. This does not mean that scholarships won’t be given. They will, but from money raised specifically for that purpose and with a focus on financial need and factors such as service and leadership. Access: The issue of access implicates race, ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic status. In 2005, an ABA report concluded that “[t]he paucity of minorities entering the legal profession is one of the most significant problems facing the legal profession now and in the future.”9 A 2013 study by Microsoft noted that “the gap between diversity in the law profession and diversity in the U.S. has worsened over the past nine years.”10 Moreover, unless something changes, this gap will only become greater, as the “minority” population becomes the majority and is even more seriously underrepresented in the legal profession.11 Another access issue is age. According to a 2010 study by the Law School Admission Council, nearly 20 percent of law school applicants from 2005 to 2009 were older than 30, and the majority of these were rejected by all law schools to which they applied.12 According to the study, an increase in the applicant’s age corresponded with: a higher likelihood that the applicant was African-American, a longer period of time since the applicant completed undergraduate education, a lower LSAT score, fewer law school applications submitted, and greater likelihood that the applicant—if admitted—did not matriculate.13 Several factors about our program, we hope, can advance the goals of access and diversity. Our school will keep tuition low for all entering students. Our scholarships will be directed at financial need. When it comes to our use of LSAT scores as a measure of success for admission, we will follow the Law School Admission Council’s Statement of Good Admission and Financial Aid Practices: “LSAT scores provide at best a partial measure of an applicant’s ability and should be considered in relation to the total range of information available about a prospective law student. Thus, the LSAT score should be used as only one of several criteria for evaluation and should not be given undue weight.”14 Our admissions policy emphasizes considering the applicant’s background, service to others, honors and achievements, communication skills, talents relevant to the practice of law, hardships overcome, work experience, leadership, and diversity, which includes racial and ethnic diversity as well as age, socioeconomic background, educational and professional background, and military or law enforcement experience. We encourage personal interviews as part of the application process, and we might move toward a required interview. Excellence in Developing Practice-Related Competencies: Our educational goal is excellence in developing practice- related competencies. As a new law school, we have a unique chance to put into place curriculum and instruction that draw on the important insights that have emerged from studies and reform discussions relating to legal education.15 From the outset, we will take the following steps: define the practice-related competencies that our students should have; map our curriculum and course learning outcomes in light of those competencies; and use ongoing assessment at the student level, course level, and program level. The term “practice-related competencies” refers to the knowledge, skills, abilities, and qualities that law school graduates should have to be successful in practicing law. Although articulations vary,16 a working list includes: substantive knowledge of the law, legal analysis and reasoning, conflict resolution and problem solving, written and oral communication, finding and using information, working with others, values and ethics, and understanding the practice of law (including the dramatic changes in the market for legal services). Each of these larger areas consists of more specific proficiencies. By building our course learning outcomes in relation to these competencies, and through curriculum mapping, we plan to tie course content and course learning outcomes to various competencies. Further, throughout upper-level courses, we will weave repeated exposures to competencies such as communication, information usage, and others. Most of our substantive upper-level, three-hour courses will be “2 + 1” courses—with two hours relating to substantive law and a one-hour “lab” for applications of the law covered in the course. These applications can include, for example, drafting, negotiating, working with a team on a discovery plan, etc. Likewise, experiential course offerings—such as clinical, externship, and practicum courses—will be mapped in relation to competencies. As to assessment, many legal educators—and the legal education study by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching17—have pointed to the flaws of the single, end-of-semester examination. As the Carnegie report explains, this entirely “after the fact” practice “forecloses the possibility of giving meaningful feedback” on the student’s learning.18 Rather than using a single end-of-term exam, our courses will include multiple formative and summative assessments. The results of multiple assessments—in addition to enhancing student learning—will help us as we regularly evaluate the effectiveness of our curriculum and teaching. As with any school, our success depends on faculty. Generally, we will require that faculty members have at least seven to 10 years of practice experience, along with a demonstrated commitment to professional formation, mentoring, and teaching. Further, we have designed our faculty policies in a way that does not create disincentives to the kind of work necessary for our teaching and learning mission. Specifically, we have defined scholarship more broadly than is often the case. Consistent with the categories proposed by Ernest Boyer, former head of the Carnegie Foundation, we recognize not just the “scholarship of discovery,” but also the scholarship of teaching and learning, the scholarship of application, and the scholarship of synthesis.19 Thus, scholarly success at our school is not limited to writing law review articles on new insights or theories (i.e., the scholarship of discovery). Instead, scholarship also can take the form of practice-related articles, treatises, or manuals; materials relating to teaching and learning; drafting model legislation or law-related community education materials; and more. Creating opportunity and value for our students: Without overstating the case, we believe our school can offer value and opportunity by providing an excellent competency- based legal education at a tuition point that makes a legal education affordable for many who might not otherwise have access and that does not burden graduates with unreasonable debt. We also think it is critical to foster and support students’ discernment about their professional journeys. Curricular and co-curricular features of law school should help a student understand what lawyers do; how different types of practices are organized; the huge shifts in the market for legal services; how the subjects covered in law school map onto the world of practice; the student’s own strengths, abilities, and interests; what skills and abilities are most important in different areas of law; and so forth. We are committed to keeping these topics of professional formation and discernment at the front and center of our law school community, starting with our required first-year course, the Profession and Practice of Law. Conclusion: We are working hard to establish a law school that our region and our state can be proud of. Texas lawyers have built a great tradition of service to our clients, our profession, and our communities. UNT Dallas College of Law will do everything in its power to graduate lawyers who carry on that tradition ethically, responsibly, and professionally. As noted in the Carnegie report, it is a serious thing “to prepare future professionals with enough understanding, skill, and judgment to support the vast and complicated system of the law needed to sustain the United States as a free society worthy of its citizens’ loyalty.…”20 To educate lawyers is a serious undertaking, and we accept the challenge with the upmost seriousness. We approach our task with humility, understanding its importance. We invite and welcome your support. We would like to acknowledge the helpful citation assistance of Molly Spieczny in the preparation of this article. Notes 1. The details of the accreditation process appear in ABA Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, The Law School Accreditation Process (August 2013 revised ed.), www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publications/misc/legal_education/2013_revised_accreditation_brochure_web.authcheckdam.pdf. 2. Id. at 7. 3. American Bar Association Task Force on the Future of Legal Education, Draft Report and Recommendations (Sept. 20, 2013), www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/professional_responsibility/taskforcecomments/task_force_on_legaleducation_draft_report_september2013.authcheckdam.pdf. 4. Id. at 3. 5. ABA Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar, Law School Tuition 1985—2012, www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/legal_education_and_admissions_to_the_bar/statistics/ls_tuition.authcheckdam.pdf. 6. Draft Report and Recommendations, supra note 3, at 3. 7. Id. at 1-2. 8. Id. at 2. 9. In 2005, the ABA hosted a conference on diversity in the legal profession; the conference was co-sponsored by the LSAC. The quote comes from the executive summary of the post-conference report. ABA Presidential Advisory Council on Diversity in the Profession, Embracing the Opportunities for Increasing Diversity in the Legal Profession: Collaborating to Expand the Pipeline 10 (2006), www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/migrated/2011_build/diversity/pipelinepostreport.authcheckdam.pdf. 10. Microsoft Corp., Raising the Bar: An Analysis of African-American and Hispanic/Latino Diversity in the Legal Profession, http://blogs.technet.com/b/microsoft_on_the_ issues/archive/2013/12/10/raising-the-bar-exploring-the-diversity-gap-within-thelegal-profession.aspx. 11. The Pew Research Center estimates that “[n]on-Hispanic whites, who made up 67 percent of the population in 2005, will be 47 percent in 2050.” Pew Research Center, U.S. Population Projections: 2005-2050, at 1 (2008), pewhispanic.org/files/reports/85.pdf. In addition, growth in the Hispanic/Latino population will exceed that of other minority populations combined. Id. at 9. 12. Kimberly Dustman and Phil Handwerk, Law School Admission Council, Analysis of Law School Applicants by Age Group: ABA Applicants 2005-2009, at 2 & 9 (2010), www.lsac.org/docs/default-source/data-(lsac-resources)-docs/analysis-applicants-by-age-group.pdf. 13. Id. at 2. 14. Law School Admission Council, LSAC Statement of Good Admission and Financial Aid Practices—JD Programs, www.lsac.org/docs/default-source/publications-%28lsacresources% 29/statementofgoodadm.pdf. 15. Two key reports are William M. Sullivan, et al., Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law (2007) (“Carnegie Report”), and Roy Stuckey et al., Best Practices for Legal Education (2007). 16. We are grateful for the insights of legal educators and researchers who have studied the qualities of effective lawyers and a competency-based approach to legal education. See Neil W. Hamilton, Verna Monson & Jerome M. Organ, Encouraging Each Student’s Personal Responsibility for Core Competencies Including Professionalism, 21 Professional Lawyer No. 3, at 1 (2012); William D. Henderson, A Blueprint for Change, 40 Pepperdine L. Rev. 461 (2013); Marjorie M. Schultz & Sheldon Zedeck, Predicting Lawyer Effectiveness: Broadening the Basis for Law School Admissions Decisions, 36 Law & Soc. Inquiry 620 (2011). 17. See Carnegie Report, supra note 16. 18. Id. at 164. 19. Ernest L. Boyer, Scholarship Reconsidered: The Priorities of the Professoriate 17- 25 (1997). Professor Boyer used the terms “scholarship of discovery,” “scholarship of teaching,” “scholarship of application,” and “scholarship of integration.” 20. Id. at 202. ROYAL FURGESON After practicing trial law in El Paso for 24 years, Royal Furgeson was appointed in 1994 to the federal trial bench, where he served for 19 years. In June 2013, he became the founding dean of the UNT Dallas College of Law, where he continues to serve. ELLEN PRYOR is professor of law and associate dean for Academic Affairs at the UNT Dallas College of Law. Before joining the UNT Dallas College of Law in January 2013, Pryor served for 25 years on the faculty at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, where she was the Homer R. Mitchell Endowed Professor of Law. She is currently a coreporter on the American Law Institute’s Restatement Third, Torts: Intentional Torts. We will decline to use one student’s tuition payment to discount that of another student. This does not mean that scholarships won’t be given. They will, but from money raised specifically for that purpose and with a focus on financial need and factors such as service and leadership.
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