With three new U.S. law schools, legal academia makes a rebound

  • Wilmington University is the latest to say it’s starting a new law school
  • The Delaware campus joins Jacksonville University and High Point University in pursuing a law school

(Reuters) – Wilmington University in Delaware on Thursday said it will launch a new law school next year, marking the third new U.S. law school in the pipeline so far this year.

The new schools follow a nearly decade-long contraction in legal academia. Until this fall, no new law school had opened since 2014, and at least seven closed during that period due to financial shortfalls, low enrollment, accreditation problems or ownership issues.

Officials from the universities launching new law schools say they see a need for local and more affordable options for aspiring attorneys.

Wilmington plans to enroll its first law school class in the fall, making it the second law school in Delaware. It aims to initially enroll up to 50 full-time students and as many as 15 part-time students, eventually maxing out with 500 students in total.

Full-time tuition next year will be $24,000, which is less than half the $57,376 first-year tuition at Widener University Delaware Law School. Both universities are private.

“Somebody has to do something about law school debt,” said Phillip Closius, founding dean of the Wilmington University School of Law, during a Thursday press conference.

The new school will have a mandated curriculum during the first two years, a departure from the traditional model of only requiring specific courses during the first year, Closius said. Each of those classes will include closed-book, multiple choice and essay exams that mimic the format of the bar exam, he added.

The school will seek American Bar Association accreditation, which would enable graduates to sit for the bar exam.

Jacksonville University in February announced it would open a

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Newest US law school has big plans, few students so far

  • Jacksonville University’s new law school started classes this week with 14 students
  • It’s the first new law school to open since 2014

(Reuters) – The Jacksonville University College of Law became the first new US law school to open in nearly a decade when its inaugural cohort of 14 students arrived on campus Monday.

Until this week, Jacksonville was the largest US city without a law school following the abrupt closure of the for-profit Florida Coastal School of Law. That school shuttered last year amid declining enrollment, financial shortfalls, accreditation problems and a poor track record of graduates passing the bar and finding legal jobs.

Jacksonville University’s starting enrollment falls just below the 15 to 20 students it had time for, said founding dean Nicholas Allard. The school told prospective students on its website that it would cap initial enrollment at 30.

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Allard, who previously served as dean of Brooklyn Law School and is a senior counsel at global law firm Dentons, said he is confident enrollment will grow steadily. The group that begins in January could include about 30 students, he said, noting that the school received 200 applications for the fall and offered seats to 20 of those applicants.

Annual tuition at the school is $36,000, which makes it less expensive than the six American Bar Association-accredited private law schools in Florida. The state has 10 ABA-accredited schools in all — a group Jacksonville University hopes to join in two years when it is eligible to apply for accreditation.

“We’re going to build this up in a very methodical, brick-by-brick fashion,” Allard said.

Days after Jacksonville University announced in February that it would open the law school, High Point University — a private, Christian university in North Carolina —

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