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Drexel University has cleared the first major hurdle toward its goal of opening a law school by fall 2006 as the school’s board of trustees unanimously approved the concept during a meeting May 18. Drexel senior vice president and general counsel Carl “Tobey” Oxholm III said the school’s next step will be to file paperwork — as early as this week — seeking formal approval from the state Department of Education. Oxholm said the Department of Education would make an on-campus visit and then give the school provisional approval to open its doors, hopefully with enough time for the school to begin advertising for a September 2006 start date. Because the school would open without being accredited by the American Bar Association, Oxholm said it would offer students a discount on tuition. He said he would hope to have provisional approval before the first group of students graduate in the spring of 2009. ABA approval would also entail an on-campus visit, would require the school to meet a host of regulations and would eventually need to be approved by the House of Delegates. Drexel officials have said its law school will distinguish itself from other local law schools by focusing its curriculum on Drexel’s undergraduate and graduate academic strengths such as engineering, health care and business while incorporating the university’s focus on cooperative education. Drexel officials have said the school would like to start out with at least 70 students in its first class and possibly as many as 120. The school would eventually like to have 600 full-time and part-time students. The students would be split into two sections and take the normal assortment of first-year classes before entering into a co-op program during the second and third years. Oxholm has said he envisions the students spending six months on campus taking classes and six months getting practical experience with a legal employer in the private, public or public interest sectors. He said while one section of students would be in class during a six-month period, the other would be working. The core curriculum for the school would be comprised of intellectual property, health care and emerging growth businesses. Drexel officials have said that the co-ops would be geared toward specific industries such as pharmaceutical, environmental and computer technology. Oxholm said the school hopes to hire a pre-law professor for undergraduate students within the next month and start law school hiring by executing a national search for professors to head up the IP and health care sections as well a professor adept at organizing and teaching first-year curriculum. Oxholm and that trio of educators would then work to hire a law school dean. Drexel officials would like to construct a new building for the law school that would connect to the rest of the campus’ schools. If a suitable space cannot be found, the school will consider other options such as renovating an existing building or moving into unoccupied office space in Center City. Oxholm has said the school plans to pay for all this by dipping into its endowment, which he says is quite sizable. University officials said the school would initially lose money; they hope it will start breaking even in its sixth or seventh year.

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