Two new law schools throw open their doors

first_imgTwo new law schools throw open their doors Florida A&M, FIU welcome inaugural classAfter years of intense debating and lobbying, Florida’s two new public law schools welcomed inaugural classes in August, with promises of bringing more minority lawyers to the state.In Orlando, historically black Florida A&M University proudly reclaimed its law school after it was forced in 1968 to close its doors in Tallahassee to make room for Florida State University’s new law school. FAMU established its original law school in 1949 at a time blacks were barred from the University of Florida’s law school.With renewed enthusiasm to open Central Florida’s only public law school, Dean Percy Luney — a Harvard law graduate and former dean of Nevada’s National Judicial College and North Carolina Central University School of Law — said: “We have a bright, talented, and enthusiastic group of individuals who make up this first class. We’re ready for the students, and we know the students are ready for their new venture.”In Miami, Florida International University’s College of Law welcomed its first class of students, boasting the largest percentage of Hispanics of any law school in the country.At FIU’s opening convocation at the Graham Center on the west Miami-Dade campus August 23, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Harry Lee Anstead spoke about the rule of law and the renewed attention it has received after September 11, 2001.“Outside the courts themselves, I can think of no other legal institution that has a greater responsibility to defend and nurture the rule of law than the law school — and, especially, a public law school. And what more appropriate location. If New York was the gateway to our democracy in the early 20th century, Miami clearly claims that title today,” Chief Justice Anstead said.“Indeed, our recent immigrants sometimes seem to have more appreciation for our freedoms than we do. Further, in live contrast to our rule of law, lurking just 90 miles from our southern coast is one of the last bastions of communism — Cuba — the very antithesis of the rule of law.“Is this hallowed ground? Well, no, not yet, perhaps. Will it be? I hope so. The learning, the passion, the public service that we expect to flow from this great place of learning and the contributions all of you will make to your community, your state, and your nation, and especially to the rule of law, will surely be the measure of your greatness. And I am confident that the people of Florida and Florida’s justice system will mark this day with great joy.”Leonard Strickman, dean of FIU’s new law school, a Yale Law School graduate and former dean of the University of Arkansas School of Law, said his new students are grateful for a public law school with much more affordable tuition than the three private law schools in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.“We will have more blue-collar students than most law schools in the state,” Strickman told The Miami Herald. “We’re an incredible bargain and certainly as good as the other public schools, Florida State and the University of Florida.”While the yearly tuition at the University of Miami’s law school in Coral Gables costs $18,708 for part-time students and $25,984 for full-time students, FIU’s part-time tuition is $4,161 per year and the full-time program is $6,143.Because of the lower tuition and availability of part-time and evening programs, both FAMU and FIU have attracted both minorities and working professionals returning to school to get law degrees.At FAMU, the 2002 entering class is 90-students strong, with 57 in the full-time day program and 33 in the part-time evening program. Of those 90 students, 60 percent are female, 51 percent are minority, and 96 percent are Floridians, including 61 percent from the Metro Orlando area.The average age of the FAMU law students is 31, and the professional experiences of students include a firefighter, probation officer, practicing physician, and a pharmaceutical sales representative.“The diversity of this class will ensure a meaningful exchange of ideas and a healthy mix of discussions inside and outside the classroom,” Luney said.At FIU, more than half of its 115 students are minorities: About 44 percent are Hispanic, 8 percent black, and 5 percent Asian or other minorities. FIU’s first class has 67 full-time students and 48 part-timers.“There was a hundred years of pent-up demand in South Florida for this kind of law school,” FIU President Modesto Maidique told the school’s board of trustees in May.“Not everyone can leave town to become a lawyer, and not everyone can make the kind of investment in a private law school,” he said.But not everyone was gung ho to add public law schools in Florida, where there are more than 70,000 lawyers, of which about 8 percent are minorities. The now-defunct Board of Regents, which governed the state university system, argued Florida had enough lawyers and rejected FIU’s dream for a law school three times: in 1988, 1993, and 1999.In 2000, the Florida Legislature agreed to fund new law schools for both FIU and FAMU.Even though FIU faced deep cuts in the tight 2002 legislative budget year, the school was able to reap $2.3 million for operations and $10 million for permanent facilities.At FAMU, there is $22.7 million in hand, with another $5 million to be raised for a permanent campus. Now, students attend classes in a temporary facility at One North Orange Avenue in downtown Orlando, where the law school fills seven of 20 floors with classrooms, faculty and staff offices, student services, and a law library featuring more than 125,000 volumes. The plan is to move to a new permanent facility, on 3.7 acres near the Federal Courthouse on Hughey Avenue, in the fall of 2005.Rising law school debt is blamed for new law school graduates choosing higher-paying private law firms over lower-paying jobs in public service government jobs, and legal services and non-profit organizations.With that backdrop, the FAMU College of Law is focusing on providing students with an opportunity to represent indigent clients in its clinical program. All third-year law students are required to provide 20 to 30 hours each week of pro bono legal services to the community.“Through our unique educational programs, the College of Law will enable the students to discover and realize their potential for effective and creative problem-solving and professional and civic leadership,” Dean Luney said.“We’re in a position to play a critical role in shaping the growth and development of Central Florida and its legal community in this millennium.” September 15, 2002 Regular News Two new law schools throw open their doorslast_img

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