University of Akron and Cleveland State University to explore creating unified law school
The University of Akron (UA) and Cleveland State University (CSU) today announced the formation of a Joint Exploratory Working Group to consider a strategic partnership between the Cleveland Marshall College of Law and The University of Akron School of Law.
The Working Group will be co-chaired by CSU Cleveland-Marshall Dean Lee Fisher and Akron Law Dean C.J. Peters and will include representatives of the faculty, staff, alumni and students of both law schools, as well as representatives from both legal communities.
It will determine the feasibility, timeline and key components of investing in a new operating model that would create new synergies and opportunities for legal education. Recommendations will be shared with the university presidents later this fall. If appropriate, the plan would go to the American Bar Association (ABA) and the state for final approval in 2021. Both university presidents and UA and CSU Boards of Trustees support the formation of the Joint Exploratory Working Group.
A joint operating model would potentially create the largest law school in Ohio and one of the largest public law schools in the country. UA and CSU would jointly own and operate the newly organized law school, making it the only law school in the United States to be part of two different urban public research universities.
Both university presidents appreciate the weight of the undertaking and applaud the innovative spirit of the committee’s purpose.
“The opportunity to work together on something truly special and unique that builds upon our respective track records of academic excellence and student engagement is real,” said Harlan Sands, president of Cleveland State University. “Our collective ability to meet the changing needs and expectations of our legal and business communities in Northeast Ohio is greater if we work together.”
UA President Gary L. Miller agrees. “We have an exciting opportunity to think about how we might redesign legal education through a creative partnership of two outstanding law schools. We hope to leverage the great variation in circumstances in the Cleveland-Akron-Canton urban corridor.“
The physical proximity of the two campuses would allow students to take in-person courses at both locations; students also could choose from many online offerings. The combined faculty would bring enormous depth and breadth to the school’s curriculum and scholarly output and its capacity to serve the Northeast Ohio community through clinics, educational programming, pro bono work and legal expertise would be unmatched.
The two law schools announced earlier they would cross-register eight courses for the fall 2020 semester as an opportunity to leverage the curricular strengths of both law schools and to expand curricular opportunities for law students.
Both schools have been long recognized for excellence in legal education.
CSU Cleveland-Marshall, founded in 1897, was the first law school in Ohio to admit women and one of the first to admit African Americans. CSU Cleveland-Marshall is the highest ranked public law school in Northern Ohio. In the most recent national rankings, CSU Cleveland-Marshall had the second largest ranking increase of any law school in the nation. There has been a 40% increase in enrollment since 2016. The School is home to the nationally recognized Center for Cybersecurity and Privacy Protection, Center for Health Law and Policy, Criminal Justice Center, and Global Space Law Center. In 2019, CSU Cleveland-Marshall enrolled 403 J.D. students.
Akron Law boasts the highest first-time pass rate among Ohio public law schools on the most recent Ohio bar exams, and its trial advocacy teams have won four national championships and 19 regional titles. The School, which will celebrate its centennial in 2021, is home to the Center for Constitutional Law and the Miller Becker Center for Professional Responsibility, and its Intellectual Property (IP) Law program is one of the top IP programs in the country. The School also hosts a nationally recognized Reentry Clinic, a small business (SEED) clinic, and a Trademark Clinic in which law students prosecute trademark applications. In 2019, Akron Law enrolled 416 J.D. students.
See frequently asked questions about the proposed unified law school.
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