Chicago is a hub for law schools. The city houses six of the state’s nine programs, all of which are private institutions. However, in the next few years, this may change — Chicago may have its first public law school.
This November, The John Marshall Law School and the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) announced a possible merger that would create the city’s first public program for aspiring attorneys. Under this arrangement, John Marshall would become a part of UIC.
At this time, the two schools are in “preliminary discussions”, but both appear hopeful for the future.
According to UIC, the Illinois university has already tapped an external consulting group who researched and reported on the potential business deal. UIC also completed their own internal financial analysis of the Chicago law school. These findings have led both constituencies to expand the conversation to faculty, staff, students, alumni, and donors of both schools.
Dean of The John Marshall Law School, Darby Dickerson, believes that the creation of a public law school would be a win-win for everyone at John Marshall. In her announcement to alumni, she states that the “opportunities a permanent relationship with UIC would provide not only to our students, but also for you, are easy to imagine. Not only will you have the support of your law school, but you’ll become a member of a larger alumni family.”
UIC and The John Marshall Law School even created a FAQ website that provides background on the previous conversations of a merger, the benefits of a public law school for current and future students, reasoning behind the decision, and much more.
According to the FAQs, UIC is one of the few public research universities designated with the highest Research 1 classification by the Carnegie Foundation that does not have a law school. In fact, 65 percent of all Research 1 universities, public and private, have a law school. Chicago, the third largest city in the U.S., also is one of the few cities without a public law school.
The two schools also share a mission committed to providing access and educational opportunities from underserved communities in the city.
As previously mentioned, nothing is set in stone. The merger first requires approvals by both the University of Illinois and The John Marshall Law School Board of Trustees. Then, the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the American Bar Association and the Higher Learning Commission must weigh in on the matter.
As more information is released, our team at the Commission on Professionalism will provide updates to the Illinois legal community.
In the meantime, please feel free to share your thoughts, concerns, and opinions on the idea. We would love your take.