Phil Luciano, “Judge Shares a Vision of a Bradley Law School,” Peoria Journal Star
Not to be outdone by Indiana Tech, Wilkes-Barre, Delaware, Alaska, Louisiana College, UMass Dartmouth, North Texas, the Midwestern School of Law, and the Roger B. Taney Law Center—and please forgive me if I’ve forgotten any others—Bradley University may be the site of the latest pointless law school propelled by parochial luminaries, which in this case is the Chief Judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Central Illinois, James Shadid.
Okay, I made up Midwestern and Taney, but at the rate we’re going with these law schools life will eventually imitate art.
Bradley University College of Law.
Sound intriguing? Some people – including a federal judge, a law school dean and the BU provost – think so. Moreover, a group of [ten] legal experts concluded in a hush-hush study – never revealed publicly until now – that central Illinois boasts a market for a law school.
A secret study by “legal experts,” eh? Here, I’m a legal expert: According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, Economic Information and Analysis Division (PDF), Illinois will add 1,092 lawyer jobs (392 from growth and 700 from replacement) per year between 2010 and 2020. In 2011, 2,183 people graduated from Illinois’ law schools. See, no need to keep it secret!
File those numbers away in case this secret study comes to light so we can compare it to Indiana Tech’s outrageously irresponsible conclusions, which I nostalgically recall the erstwhile Restoring Dignity to the Law sublimely characterizing as “assume-the-conclusion Soviet-style planning.”
Proponents say a Bradley law school could be conceived with niche studies and new-model curricula that would better position graduates for employment, especially in this area.
Almost a decade ago, Shadid made a few informal suggestions to the Bradley administration about the lack of law schools in the Peoria area or western Illinois. But he found no eager ear until Joanne Glasser became the school’s president in 2007.
Shortly after she arrived on campus, Shadid asked to meet for coffee. After pleasant chit-chat, Shadid launched into a grand vision regarding a law school. He found an intrigued audience in Glasser: as a child in Baltimore, she dreamed of becoming an attorney after reading “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Folks, I’ve been doing this for more than two years, but I still can’t believe how common it is for academic administrators to drink the law school-flavored Kool-Aid.
A main issue regarding a law school: Is there a market and need? To a person, Shadid categorized team members’ analyses as mostly positive, though interlaced with some uncertainty … [C]ritics point to a traditional focus that relies too much on classroom instruction and – aside from summer work – allows students little real-life exposure. That’s where a Bradley law school could be innovative, says Bradley Provost David Glassman.
This could involve no mere tweaking, but – pending American Bar Association approval – drastic curriculum revolution. The main change: Instead of taking classes during the third and last year, students would be placed in legal settings – with private attorneys, with county prosecutors and public defenders, or with corporations’ legal teams – to assist on real cases.
Didn’t NYU say it was going to do this, like, last week? Anyway…
That type of hands-on experience could give graduates an advantage at job interviews. In turn, that lure eventually could help establish solid enrollment at a Bradley law school.
Something tells me that employers would prefer to hire graduates from U Chicago.
Despite a national glut of attorneys, a Bradley school could push its curriculum toward areas of expertise. For instance, Shadid says, as computer technology continues to expand, the industry demands attorneys well versed in intellectual property and other related issues.
“That could be a niche,” Shadid says.
Medical law continues to grow as a phenomenal need, Shadid says. That makes for a great tie-in for Peoria, with its huge medical community and the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria.
“Maybe there’s a relationship in some (educational) fashion,” Shadid says.
Why not add an LL.M. in corn law?
[Team member Gary Roberts] says the absence of a law school in Peoria means not just inconvenience for local would-be students, but added expense in that they have to pay room and board to study law. And whereas wage-earners in other, bigger cities can earn law degrees at night, that’s impossible in Peoria.
“There’s this large lacuna in the middle of Illinois where people can’t afford law school,” Roberts says.
Because a force field prevents NIU and SIU grads from moving to central Illinois.
Then the closer you knew was coming: law school as an engine of urban renewal:
Moreover, [Shadid] says, the school would be a good fit for Peoria’s Downtown. Shadid envisions the school located somewhere between Downtown and the Warehouse District, as a way to further the city’s aim to revamp that area.
“Can you imagine 300 young people, ages 23 to 28, filling apartments Downtown, living near the school, going to coffee shops and other places like that?” he asks.
Can you imagine Bradley Law School graduates paying 10 percent of their discretionary income on law degrees they’re not using?
Neither can Chief Judge Shadid.