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Elon University School of Law to open in fall 2006

The Elon University Board of Trustees voted Oct. 29 to establish a school of law, with the program headquartered in downtown Greensboro, N.C. Read this note for full details....

It will join North Carolina's five existing law schools. The inaugural class of about 100 students will enroll in fall 2006, with a projected total enrollment of about 300 students by fall 2008.

The board's action is the culmination of more than two years of study and seven months of fund raising. Jim Melvin, president of the Joseph M. Bryan Foundation of Greater Greensboro, and Elon University President Leo M. Lambert spearheaded the campaign to raise start-up funding and locate the school in the former Greensboro Central Public Library building. The new Elon campus in Greensboro is about 20 miles west of the main university campus in Elon, N.C.

"This is a historic day for Elon University and the beginning of a new era, as we bring Elon's traditions of innovation and excellent teaching to legal education," said Zac Walker, chair of board. "The Elon University School of Law will have the same level of excellence and outstanding reputation as the university's undergraduate programs. It is an investment in the Triad's future - a resource for businesses and a strategic asset for the revitalization of the regional economy."

The Bryan Foundation and several other foundations, corporations and individuals participated in the drive to provide the $10 million needed to supplement Elon funding for the launch of the school. Lambert thanked the benefactors and government and business leaders in Greensboro for the warm reception and strong support they have given the university.

"These visionary leaders understand the many benefits the Elon University School of Law will bring to the Triad," Lambert said. "Their commitments to this venture are an investment in legal education, in the university and in the greater community as we further develop the growing partnership between Greensboro and Alamance County."

Melvin said the law school will be an important asset in Greensboro's continued renaissance. "We are enthusiastic and proud to be the new home for the Elon University School of Law," Melvin said. "Hundreds of young professionals will spend their days studying, working and enjoying the renewed quality of life in our center city. It is a project that will pay significant dividends back to the community for years to come."

The Bryan Foundation will purchase the former library building from the City of Greensboro and lease it to Elon for 10 years, when the title will be transferred to the university.

The location of the law school in Greensboro will provide experiential opportunities for law students in a learning laboratory environment, with direct access to the region's major courts, law firms and government and non-profit agencies. Within a few blocks of the law school location are the Federal Courthouse, the Federal Bankruptcy Court, the Guilford County courthouses and the City of Greensboro municipal offices. Many of North Carolina's most prestigious legal partnerships are also headquartered within walking distance of the law school facility.

Elon's law school feasibility study, which began in spring 2002, found a growing demand for legal education nationally and in North Carolina. In 2003, each of the five existing North Carolina schools accepted only about 20 percent of applicants, and approximately three out of four prospective students were denied admittance to any of the North Carolina law schools, leaving hundreds of qualified students with no option for legal education in the state. In 2004, about 47 percent of those who took the North Carolina bar exam for the first time graduated from law schools outside the state.

Demand for legal services is expected to increase as the state's population grows and many current practicing lawyers reach retirement age. Based on current population projections, North Carolina will need to add an additional 225 attorneys per year just to maintain its current ratio of lawyers to population. Trustees decided that the need for another law school fits well with objectives of Elon's long-term strategic plan, NewCentury@Elon, which calls for expanding graduate programs as part of a strategy for enhancing academic excellence.

"Elon is the best-positioned private university in the state to launch a law school," Lambert said. "We have a growing national reputation, an innovative faculty and staff, strong trustee leadership, a history of creativity and success in launching new academic programs and ensuring quality, and a strong financial base."

Provost Gerald Francis, who chaired the feasibility study committee, said the law school will be a valuable new asset for Elon's undergraduate students as well as those enrolled in the existing graduate programs, providing access to law faculty and an 80,000-volume legal library.

"There will be several initiatives to build strong ties between the School of Law and the other programs of the university, maintaining the strong community that has been a central feature of Elon's growth and success," Francis said.

In creating a new law school, Elon plans to draw on its national reputation for excellence in providing an active, engaged style of learning. Elon has consistently been rated among the nation's top colleges and universities by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), and earns top rankings from U.S. News & World Report, The Princeton Review, The Fiske Guide to Colleges and other publications that identify schools of excellence.

"Elon is a national model of academic excellence with programs that emphasize active, engaged learning and leadership," Lambert said. "We intend to build on those strengths, creating a dynamic legal education program that features innovative teaching methods and a focus on the important role attorneys play as civic leaders. Graduates of the Elon University School of Law will be thoroughly prepared, experienced and motivated to become lawyer-leaders who will work for the betterment of their profession and society."

Among the first steps in creating the law school is the establishment of an Elon University School of Law Advisory Board that includes business, education, civic and legal leaders from the Triad and across the nation. The board will guide the formation of the school and serve as an ongoing resource for program and resource development. Lambert and trustees Noel Allen, a prominent Raleigh attorney, and Bobby Long, a Greensboro business leader, are leading the recruitment of board members.

A national search for the founding dean of the school will begin immediately, and architects will begin preparing for a major renovation of the facility. The $6 million transformation of the building will provide 69,000 square feet of space, including specialized legal classrooms, wireless technology and a law library with individual and group study spaces.

A special Web site has more information about the Elon University School of Law at law.elon.edu. Prospective students can access the Web site, e-mail law@elon.edu or call the Elon University Office of Graduate Admissions toll-free at 1-888-ELON-LAW, for information about the application process.

Click here to watch a video of the Oct. 29 news conference.

Dan Anderson,
11/5/2004 4:41 PM