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Filling the classroom

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On recent cold, snowy morning, Peter Alexander was preparing for a trip to South Bend to make his pitch to potential students as to why his law school – which is not built, not opened and not accredited – is better than the established law schools.

The dean of Indiana Tech Law School was headed to the University of Notre Dame where he planned to meet privately with pre-law students one-on-one. He would show them a PowerPoint presentation, answer questions and tell the prospects how Indiana Tech’s approach will be different from convention.

What those students heard may not be that much different from what established law schools are telling them.

indtech-exterior-15col.jpg Construction of the building which will house the new Indiana Tech Law School is two months ahead of schedule and under budget. The school is scheduled to open in August.(Photo submitted)

Alexander is touting his curriculum as providing more real-world experience along with the traditional theory. Law clinics, classroom lectures by practicing attorneys and judges to explain how centuries-old legal precedent applies to the 21st century, and assigning a mentor to every law student are part of Indiana Tech’s integrated curriculum.

Even while law schools are looking to add more practical training for its students, critics are unimpressed with Alexander’s ideas. Peter Campos, law professor at the University of Colorado Law School, blogged that Indiana Tech was a “legal diploma mill in a hyper-saturated market” and dismissed Alexander’s assertions the school will be distinguished by its emphasis on ethics and professionalism.

The Indiana Tech dean said his school is instituting the recommendations made in the 1992 “Legal Education and Professional Development: An Educational Continuum,” known as the MacCrate Report. Law schools created task forces after this report was published to determine how they could provide the education the report called for but, Alexander said, those schools have spent the past decades “naval gazing.”

As for Campos’ sharp comments, Alexander said the Colorado law professor feels threatened because at Indiana Tech “we don’t do the same cookie-cutter legal education like he’s doing.”

Construction on the new Indiana Tech Law School building on the Fort Wayne campus is currently two months ahead of schedule and under budget. In early December, the school announced it had received a collection of law books for its library from an anonymous donor.

To date, it has hired 10 faculty including the most recent addition of Judith Klaswick Fitzgerald, judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Alexander said the school is looking to add one more faculty member.

Indiana Tech is still planning to open in August 2013 and an early indication of the school’s success will be its ability to attract students. The school has set the goal of 100 for the inaugural class and, although only 10 students have been admitted, Alexander remains optimistic the first class will reach the ambitious benchmark.

Students will not only have to buy Alexander’s pitch but also be willing to pay $29,500 for tuition with another $830 in fees.

Preparing for his trip to Notre Dame, Alexander was not worried.

“I really do believe our students will get a better value for their dollar,” he said.•
 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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