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New dean outlines plan to improve Valparaiso Law School’s national reputation

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Barely a month into her tenure as dean of Valparaiso University Law School, Andrea Lyon is already talking about her nontraditional plan to improve the institution’s national ranking.

The new dean trumpeted the school and outlined her goals to central Indiana alumni at a special reception in Indianapolis Aug. 7. Since becoming dean, Lyon has been traveling around the state to introduce herself and talk to alumni.

In Indianapolis, she greeted graduates personally at the Columbia Club and then made some general remarks to the crowd. She opened by telling the group she was thrilled to be part of Valparaiso Law School.

“It’s a very, very exciting time,” Lyon said, noting the incoming class, which numbers about 188 students, has an LSAT score that is two points higher than last year’s incoming students.

lyon Valparaiso University Law School Dean Andrea Lyon, left, speaks with Valpo Law grad Indiana Court of Appeals Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik during a reception in Indianapolis for alumni. (IL Photo/ Kelly Lucas)

She then turned her attention to the subject about which alumni frequently ask – ranking.

She conceded that “ranking” is a dirty word and many object to the whole notion of rating law school but, she said, ranking is a fact of life and does affect graduates’ ability to get jobs.

Her assessment is valid.

Nine months after graduation, less than 50 percent of the lawyers who studied at Valparaiso Law School had full-time jobs that required bar passage, according to the American Bar Association statistics for 2011, 2012 and 2013. In addition, the school has been regularly listed in U.S. News & World Report’s “rank not published” category, a designation given to schools that have a ranking below magazine’s cutoff point of roughly 150.

Lyon wants to improve Valparaiso’s ranking by highlighting the school’s strengths. The traditional route to boost a law school’s national stature is to focus on faculty research but, she said, Valparaiso does not have 25 to 30 years and millions of dollars to climb out of the “rank not published” section.

Instead, Lyon wants to emphasize the school’s focus on training people to be lawyers. She wants to get a national reputation for its clinical  programs and legal writing courses that give students hands-on experience.  
 
“I think that we get those programs ranked and they will pull us up with it and people will come to us who want to be lawyers,” she said.  Someone who wants to be a theoretician probably not will go to Valparaiso, but that’s OK, she said, as there’s room in the world for lots of different schools, and “our school trains lawyers.”

Husband and wife alumni, J. Sebastian Smelko, attorney at Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP and Heather James, attorney at Ice Miller LLP, both praised the legal research and writing program.  

“That’s why I went to Valparaiso was because of the legal research and writing program,” James said. “I don’t know that that needs any improvement, but to the extent that she can focus on making that program even better that would be wonderful.”

Lyon is the 12th dean and first woman to lead the law school. She earned her law degree at Antioch School of Law and prior to joining Valparaiso, she was the associate dean of clinical programs and director of the Center for Justice in Capital Cases at the DePaul University College of Law in Chicago.
 

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  1. Being on this journey from the beginning has convinced me the justice system really doesn't care about the welfare of the child. The trial court judge knew the child belonged with the mother. The father having total disregard for the rules of the court. Not only did this cost the mother and child valuable time together but thousands in legal fees. When the child was with the father the mother paid her child support. When the child was finally with the right parent somehow the father got away without having to pay one penny of child support. He had to be in control. Since he withheld all information regarding the child's welfare he put her in harms way. Mother took the child to the doctor when she got sick and was totally embarrassed she knew nothing regarding the medical information especially the allergies, The mother texted the father (from the doctors office) and he replied call his attorney. To me this doesn't seem like a concerned father. Seeing the child upset when she had to go back to the father. What upset me the most was finding out the child sleeps with him. Sometimes in the nude. Maybe I don't understand all the rules of the law but I thought this was also morally wrong. A concerned parent would allow the child to finish the school year. Say goodbye to her friends. It saddens me to know the child will not have contact with the sisters, aunts, uncles and the 87 year old grandfather. He didn't allow it before. Only the mother is allowed to talk to the child. I don't think now will be any different. I hope the decision the courts made would've been the same one if this was a member of their family. Someday this child will end up in therapy if allowed to remain with the father.

  2. Ok attorney Straw ... if that be a good idea ... And I am not saying it is ... but if it were ... would that be ripe prior to her suffering an embarrassing remand from the Seventh? Seems more than a tad premature here soldier. One putting on the armor should not boast liked one taking it off.

  3. The judge thinks that she is so cute to deny jurisdiction, but without jurisdiction, she loses her immunity. She did not give me any due process hearing or any discovery, like the Middlesex case provided for that lawyer. Because she has refused to protect me and she has no immunity because she rejected jurisdiction, I am now suing her in her district.

  4. Sam Bradbury was never a resident of Lafayette he lived in rural Tippecanoe County, Thats an error.

  5. Sam Bradbury was never a resident of Lafayette he lived in rural Tippecanoe County, Thats an error.

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