Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School announced on Dec. 8 that is has received American Bar Association approval to open a Savannah branch campus next fall. The new location will be called Savannah Law School.
John Marshall maintained a branch in the coastal Georgia city, known for its historic homes and squares, during the 1970s and early 1980s. The timing is right to return, said Alan Boyer, associate dean for recruitment and marketing.
“There is no other law school serving that part of the southern Atlantic region,” which is expected to experience significant population growth during the next 10 to 15 years, he said. “As word has got out, we’ve had some applicants to the school here in Atlanta ask to switch over to Savannah.”
The new campus likely would draw students from more than 20 nearby colleges and universities, Boyer said. The closest ABA-accredited law schools are the Charleston School of Law in Charleston, S.C., and Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville, Fla., each 90 minutes or more away by car. The University of Georgia School of Law in Athens, Georgia State University of College of Law and John Marshall’s main campus are more than four hours away.
More than 1,500 judges and lawyers work in the Savannah area, indicating that students would have opportunities for externships and clerk positions, according to John Marshall administrators.
The school plans to enroll 96 students next year, with 60 attending full-time and 35 part-time. The part-time program is intended to appeal to doctors, law enforcement officers, paralegals and retired military servicemen and -women. Administrators are touting a “noncompetitive” environment intended to encourage teamwork — meaning that there will be no forced grading on a curve. The school has not yet settled upon a location, Boyer said.
Richardson Lynn, dean at John Marshall, will oversee operations in Savannah, which will maintain a separate faculty from that at the main campus.
“With the new Savannah Law School, students from the Savannah area and throughout the Atlantic coastal region can begin their legal careers closer to home,” Lynn said. “And students from around the country and the world can live and learn in a community rich in culture, heritage and southern hospitality.”
The school plans to begin hiring for the new branch in the spring. Prospective student can start applying this month.
Although the ABA has given its blessing to the new campus, the Savannah Law School will still have to obtain provisional accreditation. “Our plan is to immediately begin that process so that the inaugural class will be able to sit for the bar in Georgia,” Boyer said.
Savannah isn’t the only city set to get a new law school next academic year. A small group of lawyers aim to open the California Desert Trial Academy College of Law in Indio, Calif., in September. Additional new law schools are in the works in Louisiana and Indiana, and the Thomas M. Cooley Law School plans to open a new campus in Tampa, Fla., next year.
Some legal educators have questioned efforts to launch new law schools at a time when legal hiring has slowed. The ABA has declared that limiting the number of law schools would run afoul of antitrust laws.
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