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Plans for a public law school at the University of California, Irvine, are going forward despite a sharp clash with a key state education commission that has expressed concerns that California is producing too many lawyers. The California Postsecondary Education Commission (CPEC), which makes recommendations for higher education planning to the Legislature and governor, also noted in its recent review of the proposed law school that similar programs already exist in California, and that the school will cost the state too much. There are 155,992 active member attorneys in the Golden State, according to the State Bar of California. Currently, California has four public and 15 private law schools approved by the American Bar Association. The state also has nearly 50 non-ABA accredited schools, and it permits graduates from these schools to sit for the bar exam and become licensed attorneys. This will be the first time in the 30-year history of CPEC that a school has gone forward with a such a large project without the commission’s recommendation, according to its executive director, Murray Haberman. Funding is main concern Funding � and whether taxpayers will foot the bill � is the main concern for CPEC and opponents to the new law school. But Christine Byrd, spokeswoman for the University of California, Irvine, said that the costs will be covered as part of the general expansion of graduate programs at the Southern California university. “There will be no additional cost to the state for a law school at U.C., either for operating costs or capital needs,” she said. Any additional costs, Byrd added, would be funded by private support. Until there is enough private funding, the school will be housed in existing space on the campus. Currently, the school has raised $23 million from the community, Byrd said. U.C. Irvine estimates the operating costs for the school will be $508,797 between 2007 and 2008 before students enter. When the school is operating at full capacity in 2016-17 � with 600 students and 30 full-time faculty members � the cost will total $23.8 million. The school’s first class is scheduled to start in fall 2009 with a class size of 65. Byrd said the school’s cost will be covered by student fees, campus enrollment funds, private gifts and fundraising. But Haberman said it is inaccurate for U.C. Irvine to say the law school will cost the state nothing. Even in the school’s proposal, the estimated cost to the state was $6 million a year, he said. U.C. Irvine’s proposal also claims that there is a need for another public school in the area to increase access to legal education by making it more affordable. The only accredited public law school in Southern California is University of California at Los Angeles School of Law. Yearly in-state tuition at UCLA’s law school totals $25,457. Lower tuition is something Haberman said CPEC considered, but found only a small difference in the cost between private and public legal education in the state. CPEC took the average tuition of public law schools in the state � $25,000 per year � and compared it to the average private law school tuition in the Southern California region, which came to $33,000 per year. CPEC excluded University of Southern California Gould School of Law and Stanford Law School in its data because they are “more pricey,” Haberman said. But Byrd said the University of Southern California and Stanford would be U.C. Irvine Law School’s “peers,” and they have yearly fees for $37,440 and $38,682, respectively. “This means that in the three years it takes to complete a J.D., a U.C. student could save more than $45,000,” Byrd said. Public interest concerns U.C. Irvine’s proposal also stated that there is a shortage of lawyers in state, particularly doing public interest work. At CPEC’s last meeting, Clark Kelso, a government law and remedies professor at University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, testified that private law schools in the state give plenty of support to students who choose public interest careers through loan repayment assistance programs, internships in public service jobs and substantial government affairs programs. But McGeorge’s career adviser, Jane Thomson, said very few students from the school go into public interest, in part because of the lack of funding for loan repayment assistance programs, and “because of the extraordinarily high cost of private tuition.” The school’s career development office statistics show that only 2.5% of students went into public interest jobs from the 2006 graduating class, and only 1.7% from the 2005 graduating class. And according to Crystal Sims, director of litigation for the Legal Aid Society of Orange County, there is a shortage of attorneys applying for jobs in public interest. “And we have trouble finding people who want to stay,” Sims said. Paying off private school loans may have an impact, she said, suggesting that lower public school tuition may make it easier for graduates to take a lower-paying job in the public sector. Regents approved In November, the University of California Regents approved the proposal for the new U.C. Irvine law school, said Jennifer Ward, University of California spokeswoman. Because CPEC originally gave a negative recommendation for the law school in November, the regents said the school would work to meet these concerns by March 2007. At the March 20 meeting, CPEC still found the school failed to meet its criteria. As of now, the school is going forward with its plans; how and when the regents will address CPEC’s concerns is undetermined, Ward said.

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