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Receiving lessons in the moral order of the universe or having a chance to participate in an annual chili cook-off might not be the usual ways to woo students, but they are some of the enticements that new law schools are hoping will steer would-be attorneys to their institutions. Convinced that the world could use more lawyers, several new schools have recently opened or are planning to do so, all with the expectation that they can serve a purpose not met by the 191 other accredited law schools across the country. Although these new institutions stress that they are looking for people who want to experience a kind of education not found among their entrenched competitors, apparently what they really need are students who can pass the bar. “If you open your doors, you’ll get students,” said Bernard Dobranski, dean of Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor, Mich. Dobranski, who helped lead Ave Maria to accreditation with the American Bar Association this year, said that finding students to attend is the easy part for new schools. The challenge, he said, is recruiting those who will be able to create a good reputation for a school and can help set the stage for accreditation, a requirement to take the bar exam in most states. Since 2003, at least seven new law schools have popped up across the country. A few are for-profit, but most are nonprofit private institutions seeking accreditation from the ABA. Some of the schools have curricula that blend law and religion, including Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University School of Law and Ave Maria, a Catholic school. Others tout an abundance of work-experience options, such as Drexel University School of Law, expected to open in the fall of 2006, and Elon University School of Law, which anticipates opening next fall also. Other schools launched in recent years include University of Nevada, Las Vegas school of law, Charleston School of Law in South Carolina, Florida A&M University College of Law, Florida International University College of Law, the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, the Phoenix International School of Law in Arizona, the American Justice School of Law in Kentucky and Appalachian School of Law in Virginia. The University of North Texas also is planning to start a law school in Dallas. The common thread among the new schools appears to be their assurances of uniqueness. But novel programs and new buildings are not enough to lure applicants who could have their pick of more established schools. Instead, it takes scholarships-meaning money-to entice the talent that new schools need to survive. “You better have the ability to get by without much revenue for the first few years,” said Thomas Mengler, dean of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis. The school, which opened in 2001 and received provisional accreditation this year, was able to absorb 67% of the total fees it would have received in tuition if all of the students in its first class had paid full tuition, Mengler said. Since its debut, St. Thomas has reduced the percentage of tuition revenue it subsidizes for each subsequent year. The share of tuition revenue covered in this year’s incoming class is 30%, Mengler said. Fund raising has become more critical among universities in general as even state schools are receiving less support from traditional sources. Last year, private contributions to colleges and universities reached $24.4 billion, a 3.4% increase from 2003, according to the Council for Aid to Education at Rand. Nearly half of that amount came from individuals. Mengler estimates that law schools need at least $50 million at the outset, including a facility, to make a legitimate attempt at long-term success. Elon University School of Law is banking on the $10 million it has received from community foundations to help build its “Leadership Education” program. The new approach will be the focus of the curriculum when the school opens next fall, said Leary Davis, dean of the law school. Working with the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, N.C., the law faculty and administration will help students develop into “integrated professionals,” he said. Davis added that part of the rationale for launching the new school was census data showing that the ratio of lawyers to North Carolina residents was about half of the national figure. Moreover, some 47% of all first-time takers of the bar examination graduated out of state, said Leary, who helped Campbell University Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law in North Carolina attain accreditation in 1979. Tuition at Elon, which will apply for accreditation as soon as it can, will run about $26,000 annually. To help jump-start its new law school, Drexel University will use part of its $500 million endowment, said Carl Oxholm, senior vice president for the law center. At Drexel, students will be able to participate in a six-month program that pairs them, not with law firms, but with law departments at companies in the Philadelphia area. Oxholm said that no other law school coordinates six-month externships. Tuition at Drexel law school will cost about $28,000 each year, he said. The school also plans to construct a $13 million facility in west Philadelphia. It will seek provisional ABA accreditation, and is expecting to enroll about 120 students its first year. During that first year is when new schools generally start gearing up for the accreditation process, although they cannot formally apply for provisional accreditation until their second year. A big piece of the process for a new school is demonstrating that it can churn out graduates who will pass the bar. Indeed, the first objective of the ABA’s accreditation standards states that a school’s educational program must be one that “prepares its students for admission to the bar and effective and responsible participation in the legal profession.” Bar passage rates also significantly affect a law school’s ranking among its competitors, which can heavily influence where students decide to attend. In addition, accepting students who can pay tuition although they are unlikely ever to gain admission to the bar has its own ethical implications. Schools that get into trouble with accreditation are usually those having problems in the “admissions, academic support, attrition and bar passage continuum” said John Sebert, consultant on legal education to the ABA.

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