FAQs related to potential unified law school


Related: University of Akron and Cleveland State University to explore creating unified law school


Why form an Exploratory Working Group?

How did the idea for the potential combination come about?

The deans of the two law schools, Lee Fisher (CSU/CMLAW) and C.J. Peters (Akron Law), frequently speak about issues of mutual concern. In spring 2020, the deans began discussing ways the two law schools might collaborate for the benefit of their students and the community. One result of these discussions was an initiative to cross-register students in a limited number of courses at both law schools during the fall 2020 semester. These discussions raised the possibility of a more ambitious collaboration, such as a combination of the two law schools.

If the proposed partnership is not approved, does this mean one of the law schools will close? Is this being done because one or both law schools have financial challenges?

No. This proposed combination is not necessary for the continued success of either law school. Both law schools are successful and financially strong. Each law school provides a first-rate legal education and outstanding outcomes for its students at an affordable cost, and each has a long tradition of service and leadership in Northeast Ohio.  A potential joint operating model is a unique opportunity to leverage the existing strengths of both law schools to create expanded opportunities for students and service to the community.

Why is the unified law school necessary?

A combination is not necessary for the continued success of either law school. Rather, we believe this is a unique opportunity to enhance, enrich and expand the educational experiences and opportunities of our students and better serve the Northeast Ohio community.

Would a unified law school save the universities money?

Cost savings is not a goal of the proposed partnership. While we anticipate some likely cost savings from efficiencies and economies of scale in the long term, the universities view the potential partnership as a unique opportunity to invest in expanded opportunities for students and graduates, expanded service to the people of Northeast Ohio, and the building of a unique law school with a strong presence in two urban communities and at two urban public research universities. 

What are the key benefits of this joint operating model?

Potential benefits include:

  • A larger, more diverse faculty and curriculum for students to choose from.
  • Greater access by students and graduates to experiential and employment opportunities.
  • Enhancement of the two schools’ existing national reputations in current areas of strength and the creation of new areas of nationally recognized strength. Examples include cybersecurity and technology, innovation and intellectual property, health law, trial advocacy, constitutional law/criminal justice/civil rights, tax/business law, space law, professional responsibility, and leadership.
  • Students could study law in two different urban areas, on the campus of two distinct public research universities.
  • Student recruitment would be greatly enhanced by the unique and unprecedented programs of the combined law school.
  • Strengthening and expanding of the schools’ public service and community outreach programs, such as free clinics, CLE programs, and public educational programming.
  • Opportunities to expand influential research in areas that benefit the legal profession, justice system, and community in Northeast Ohio and beyond.

How will the combination help to grow enrollment?

This potential partnership would create one of the nation’s largest public law schools and the largest law school in Ohio. It would present students with the unique opportunity to attend law school in two different urban locations and to take advantage of two separate urban public universities.  Students could choose from a large array of curricular offerings and multiple nationally known specialty areas. They would have access to a broad diversity of experiential learning opportunities, a greatly expanded alumni body and enhanced employment prospects.

Is this a trend we will be seeing in higher education and legal education?

Every university and law school should be looking at collaborative opportunities that can enhance value for its students, alumni and communities. However, few, if any, other law schools enjoy the conditions that make a potential partnership between Akron Law and CSU/CMLAW so promising. CSU/CMLAW and Akron Law are both excellent public law schools with similar student body profiles and similar histories located only 40 miles apart in Northeast Ohio. Both are parts of outstanding urban public research universities, both are affordable, and many students apply to both law schools. Few other law school combinations, actual or potential, are likely to provide as many distinctive benefits to their students and their communities.

Logistics

Who will serve on the Joint Working Group?

The Joint Exploratory Working Group will be co-chaired by Deans Peters and Fisher and will consist of equal numbers of faculty, administrators, staff, students and alumni from each law school, as well as representatives from each legal community.

What are the responsibilities of the Joint Working Group?

The Joint Exploratory Working Group will explore the desirability, feasibility and basic structure of a potential partnership between the two law schools and will submit a report and recommendations to the two university presidents.

What’s the timetable for the process?

The Joint Exploratory Working Group will be formed in September and will work during the 2020-21 academic year to submit a report and recommendations to the presidents of both universities. The presidents will then consider these recommendations and decide whether to proceed with an integration of the two law schools. If approved by the presidents and the Boards of Trustees, the two law schools and universities would apply for approval from their accrediting organizations and from the Ohio Department of Higher Education. Representatives of both law schools would work to develop an implementation plan, with the earliest possible initial implementation of the joint entity being  August 2021.

Would there be one dean or two?

There would be two co-deans, one housed at each location.

Would both facilities continue to be used?

Yes. Both current law school buildings are modern, state-of-the-art facilities conveniently located near courts, law firms and businesses in the downtown business districts of each urban center. Both facilities would remain in regular use and would be staffed with resident faculties and support staff and feature a large library collection, as required for accreditation by the American Bar Association’s Council on Legal Education. Classes would continue to be held at both locations.

If the proposed partnership is approved, what would the new law school be named?

The name of the new law school would be decided after input from various constituent groups and recommendations by the Joint Exploratory Working Group.

If this proposed partnership is approved, what university name would be on the diploma?

This detail would be determined as part of the implementation process.

Will students be expected to attend classes at one university location or both?

The details of curriculum and course offerings will be worked out during the implementation phase.  . We anticipate that many courses would be available online or in dual-delivery (in-person and online) format.

Is the plan to make the law school an independent entity separate from both universities (such as NEOMED is a separate medical university)?

No. The combined law school would be jointly owned by both parent universities – The University of Akron and Cleveland State University.