TBA Law Blog

Posted by: on Dec 23, 2009

Journal Issue Date: Dec 2009

Journal Name: December 2009 - Vol. 45, No. 12

Tennessee Now Has Six

Does it make sense to launch two new law schools in the midst of the deepest recession the country has seen in years? Does Tennessee need six law schools? Yes, say the people who researched whether or not to start Belmont University College of Law and Duncan School of Law. What were they thinking? Let's find out.

Belmont University College of Law - Nashville

In the process to determine if it would begin a law school, Belmont University prepared a feasibility study for Tennessee and surrounding states that compared the number of lawyers per capita, number of first-year law student seats per capita, and the number of lawyers per gross state product.

"Based on this data," founding Dean Jeffrey Kinsler says, "we determined that Tennessee has far fewer attorneys per capita and per dollar of gross state product than neighboring states against which Tennessee competes for economic development opportunities. We also determined that Tennessee has a shortage of seats for first-year law students, forcing many residents to attend law schools in other states. In fact, more than half the individuals who sit for the Tennessee bar exam attend law school outside Tennessee." Belmont hopes to enroll 100 students in the charter class and 120 in each class thereafter.

Following recommendations from a Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching 2007 report, Belmont will adopt an "integrated curriculum" in which legal analysis is linked to practice skills and is taught with a solid ethical grounding. The first year will be the Fundamental Year, in which students are taught to "think like a lawyer" in traditional core subjects. The second year will be the Expertise Year, in which students attain proficiency in core and specialty subjects. The third year will be the Capstone Year, in which students transition from being law students to practicing lawyers via capstone courses and simulated and live-client experiences.   Each semester, students will be required to successfully complete at least one course that focuses on practice skills.

Kinsler, who will join the Belmont faculty in early 2010, is currently a professor of law and senior scholar with Elon University School of Law in North Carolina. He previously served as dean of Appalachian School of Law, which he led to full American Bar Association approval during his tenure. Kinsler says Belmont will pursue ABA accreditation "at the earliest possible moment." He already knows Belmont well, having served as a consultant in the plans for opening the new college.

Find out more at www.belmont.edu/law/

Lincoln Memorial University Duncan School of Law - Knoxville

The Duncan School of Law received approval from the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners in March, allowing its graduates to sit for the state bar exam. It is seeking ABA accreditation as well as accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC).   LMU admitted 76 part-time students when it began classes in August 2009. The full-time program will begin in the fall of 2010.

To determine the need for another law school Dean Sydney Beckman says they looked at a number of factors in assessing the feasibility. "First, there are many more applications to Tennessee law schools than applicants admitted. Second, particularly in this region, there are serious unmet needs for legal representation."

Beckman points out that Duncan offers an evening program, which makes legal education available to non-traditional students, and focuses on teaching using technology. "All classes are recorded using an advanced class capture system which then permits students to watch the classes the next day on the Internet. All professors use an interactive technology in every class, which provides instant feedback to students. This varies significantly from the traditional model where students only learn how well they understand the material after they receive a grade on their final exams."

Before coming to Duncan, Beckman practiced law for 15 years, was an adjunct professor at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law, and a faculty member, and helped lead the formation of, the Charleston School of Law. He received his law degree from Baylor University School of Law. Duncan School of Law is located in Knoxville's Old City Hall and is named for Tennessee Congressman John J. Duncan Jr.

"I want to prepare lawyers how to solve problems and effectively represent their clients. At Duncan we never make a decision based solely on the reason that 'other law schools do it that way.' We try to have a logical reason that positively impacts our students and their learning."

Find out more at www.lmunet.edu/law