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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. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  2. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  3. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

  4. I totally agree with John Smith.

  5. An idea that would harm the public good which is protected by licensing. Might as well abolish doctor and health care professions licensing too. Ridiculous. Unrealistic. Would open the floodgates of mischief and abuse. Even veteranarians are licensed. How has deregulation served the public good in banking, for example? Enough ideology already!

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