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The University of Miami School of Law is phasing out its night school, ending a half-century tradition that began after World War II when hard-working veterans were given the opportunity to become professionals and still keep their day jobs. In a decision that deeply divided faculty members, the Coral Gables, Fla., school decided last fall to stop accepting new part-time night school students beginning this fall. The current night school students will be allowed to complete the program over the next few years. Law school Dean Dennis Lynch said the decision to close the night school is the result of dwindling enrollment in the night program and growing enrollment in the regular day classes. The change, he said, forced him to rethink the allocation of professors. He added that the faltering economy is probably behind the drop in night students, because people with lower-paying jobs or who are laid off are more willing to attend a full-time, day program. Another factor that played into the decision is Florida International University’s new law school, which is scheduled to open this fall. The state-funded law school in Miami-Dade has a legislative mandate to offer night classes. That made it unnecessary for UM to offer night classes as a public service. “Since FIU is starting its program, this was no longer a critical mission for us,” Lynch said. But Bob Jarvis, a law school professor at Nova Southeastern University, said he heard from UM law professors that other motives were involved in the school’s decision. “A segment of the faculty there feels that the University of Miami wants to be a national law school, and national law schools do not have night programs,” he said. “Harvard and Yale don’t have night programs. It’s a prestige thing.” Lynch denied that prestige was a factor. “That wouldn’t impact us at all,” he said. “We were simply looking at offering the best quality we could.” Night school enrollment was down to about 40 students, from an average of about 60, said Lynch, who added that many of the 40 students would prefer to be attending the existing part-time day program anyway. At the same time, the day program was up to about 130 students, while 90 to 95 is preferable. He said he plans to add more day classes, and professors who taught night classes will switch over. Students still will be able to attend part time but instead will take classes during the day. This will help students who have young children and need to be home by 3 p.m., Lynch noted. By contrast, Stetson University’s law school in St. Petersburg, Fla., plans to open a night school this fall. Stetson said requests for a night law program have increased in recent years The decision to end the long-standing night program at UM was a painful one, Lynch said. Its graduates have risen to prominence in law firms and government posts throughout South Florida. One notable UM night school grad is Henry Latimer, a former Broward County, Fla., Circuit Court judge and now a partner at Greenberg Traurig. Another was former Miami-Dade prosecutor and County Judge Meek Baldwin Robinette, a college tennis star who captained the University of Miami’s 1951 national championship team. The entire law school faculty voted on the issue in the fall, and the vote was “far from unanimous,” Lynch said. “We had a lengthy discussion about it.” “We’ve always seen our night program as a mission, having started in the post-World War II period when a lot of veterans were coming home and it was more customary for working people to go to law school at night.” Tony Alfieri, a law school professor at UM, said he had mixed feelings about the move to end the program but gradually came to agree with Lynch. “The evening program provided an important public service,” he said. He and other professors said they generally preferred teaching the night students, who were more mature and brought a real-world perspective, and took turns on night duty. “I remember asking in one of my classes if anyone had experience [operating restaurant] franchises,” Alfieri said. “Three people raised their hands, as opposed to day students, who have experience in flipping hamburgers and eating French fries.”

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