I was at the beach last week, but I thought I was keeping up with recent events (you know, Jon & Kate, Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett). So I was surprised when someone yesterday mentioned that the University of North Texas was opening a law school. I did a little Googling today and found very little mention of this in any of the large newspapers of the state. Brian Leiter linked to this, which was the most information in one place I could find. But yes, UNT is opening a law school, the legislature and Gov. Rick Perry approved it, the school will be in downtown Dallas (not Denton, with the rest of the campus), the school plans to open its doors in 2011, and the $40 funding bill is still sitting in the legislature.
So, being a native Texan, a graduate of Texas Tech and the University of Texas, a former Houston attorney, and a former instructor at the law schools at Texas Tech and the University of Houston, I have a few thoughts.
So, does Texas need a tenth law school? Well, that depends. Why does any state need an additional law school? It's hard to imagine that a state with nine law schools is suffering from residents having a hard time finding adequate representation. We know that graduates this year are having a tough time finding opportunities to represent clients! I am sure many Texans have a hard time finding affordable representation, but it's not clear another hundred or two attorneys a year will bring down prices, although it could. Now, it could be that some communities in a large state are underserved and lack good legal resources. If you look at a map of Texas, there is a huge part of the state that has no law school, west of San Antonio, south of Lubbock. Also remember that New Mexico only has one law school, which is in the northern part.
But the UNT law school will put another law school in the corridor that already has nine, in a "metroplex" that already has two law schools. But, the argument must be, Dallas has no public law school (Southern Methodist University and Texas Wesleyan are private, and presumably pricey.) A public law school in an urban center will make a law school education more accessible, if tuition is more public-like than private-like. (This website, using old 2006-07 data, shows U. of Texas being $18k for in-state, more than in-state tuition at Texas Tech, $12k, but less than Texas Wesleyan, $21k, and Southern Methodist, almost $39k).
Back in the day, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Texas A&M wanted to affiliate with South Texas School of Law in Houston, the powers-that-be supposedly balked because Houston didn't need another public law school and other parts of the state, such as the Rio Grande Valley, had neither law schools nor medical schools. (Note that El Paso, a large urban center, has no law school.) The new UNT law school may have been part of a compromise that could bring a medical school to the Rio Grande valley.
Brian Leiter notes that SMU won't see much competition from the new school. I predict that the school that feels its market share threatened is Texas Tech, set in my hometown of Lubbock. Downtown Dallas will offer more clinical opportunities, more part-time work opportunities, more on-campus interview opportunities, and simply a bigger market for graduates. Dallas also offers applicants' spouses more career opportunities. That being said, Lubbock has a very low cost of living and a lot of other great things to offer, but I'm sure this new school has not gone unnoticed by the administration at Texas Tech.
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1. Posted by Jake on June 29, 2009 @ 19:09 | Permalink
Christine's points are well taken.
Reckon the old days when I could take a full semester of coursework at UH for about $200 are long gone. Good heavens, the books used to cost more than tuition and fees (but only if you didn't take the time to shop carefully for used books).
2. Posted by Sls on June 30, 2009 @ 11:03 | Permalink
We absolutely don't need another law school, in Texas or in the U.S.!! I wrote an admittedly more flippant post on the topic, but last week as regards Wilkes University in Pennsylvania opening a law school. http://ourforwardmovement.blogspot.com/2009/06/wednesday-laughter.html . I understand the why from the universities' perspective (cash cow), but not from the ABA's (where presumptively, this school will also be accredited in time). Thanks, Sls.