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Indiana Tech dedicates law school, answers critics

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Amid much pomp and circumstance, Indiana Technical Institute welcomed its new law school by reiterating its vision of legal education, praising its students and faculty, and pushing back against critics.

The Fort Wayne college held a special dedication ceremony Sept. 14 as part of its annual alumni reunion Warrior Weekend. Indiana Tech faculty, students, alumni and members of the Fort Wayne community filled the gymnasium of the Schaefer Center for the hour-long dedication of the law school and investiture of the dean, Peter Alexander.

15col Indiana Tech President Arthur Snyder (left) formally invests Peter Alexander as dean of the law school during the dedication ceremony Sept. 14. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller (far left) and Katherine S. Broderick, dean of the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, applaud. (Photo courtesy Steve Linsenmayer)

Guest speakers helping to commemorate the legal institution’s opening were 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook and Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller along with Katherine Broderick, dean of the David A. Clarke School of Law.

During his address, Alexander called his faculty, “courageous scholars,” and became emotional as he told the law students, “you don’t know how good you are or how great you’re going to be.”

Law school faculty along with the students were seated in the front among the other dignitaries. The inaugural class is small – significantly smaller than the law school’s much-publicized goal of enrolling 100 – which has only added fuel to the raging criticism surrounding Indiana’s fifth law school.

Yet, Indiana Tech 1L David Felts said after meeting the faculty and touring the facility, his decision to attend the new school was a “no-brainer.”

“I always knew in the back of my mind I wanted to go to law school,” the 2010 Indiana University-Bloomington graduate said. “I think it was perfect timing, perfect setting and perfect situation that Indiana Tech came about.”

Whenever Alexander spoke about the law school prior to its opening, he detailed the clinics, internships and mentor programs that, he said, would teach students the nuts and bolts of practicing law. He emphasized the curriculum again in his dedication speech, saying the school will blend theory and the history of law with practice right from the beginning of the students’ education.

His address also contained strong words for the critics in the blogosphere who have relentlessly questioned the wisdom of starting another law school and launched personal attacks.

“You see, people may write things about us,” Alexander said. “They may blog about us. They might even insist that they know where we are coming from and what really we are about. I can’t do anything about that and neither can you. Their slings and arrows are crafted in the darkness of ignorance and they take aim in the green eye called envy. But I’m really not worried about those people. I have a higher calling.”

The audience was supportive, applauding and giving standing ovations.

Alexander continued that the Indiana Tech administration and faculty have cast their lot with him to make law school more relevant, more rewarding and more affordable.

“So when people tell you about the law school and speculate about what we are doing or when they surmise that we have launched this effort with an improper or impure motive, would you please just do me one favor?” Alexander asked the audience. “Just tell them that everyone at Indiana Tech Law School is giving their very best.”

Also attending the ceremony were representatives from law schools around the country including Harvard, Washington & Lee, University of Georgia, Wake Forest and Case Western Reserve University.

Representing Indiana law schools were Frank Motley, assistant dean of admissions at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, and John Robinson, associate professor of law at Notre Dame Law School.

Both Easterbrook and Zoeller described Indiana Tech Law School as blazing a different path in legal education. They focused their addresses on the school’s curriculum and its proposal to infuse classroom learning with hands-on experience.

“This bold new approach with its roots in our earlier legal traditions has great promise,” Zoeller said. “By teaching law students only how to ‘think like a lawyer,’ we have left it to others to teach the new lawyers how to ‘act like a lawyer.’ The oath of a lawyer requires that we serve our clients’ interests first, above our own interests or those of our partners or our law firm’s interests. And yet for many, the training of how to ‘act like a lawyer’ is left to the very firms and partners whose interests have become paramount in our modern day practice.”

Easterbrook opened his remarks by acknowledging the two questions many had: Why open a new law school when there are so many already, and why is he lending his support to Indiana Tech?

The answer to both questions, he said, was that Indiana Tech presented competition and competition that comes from trying new things and seeing what works is a core value of the University of Chicago where he teaches part time.

“Some new entrants fail, some succeed gloriously,” he said. “We cannot know which is which without trying. Indiana Tech is trying. Three cheers for those who try new ways.”

After the ceremony, Felts’ classmate Shawn Good remembered Easterbrook’s words about competition.

Good, a native of Chicago, enrolled in the new school over the objections of his friends who bluntly called him an idiot and moron for attending Indiana Tech. He interpreted the criticism lobbed by his friends and by others as fear because, he said, they see the Fort Wayne school as a threat, providing more competition and better training its students.

“I’ve got a lot of family in the legal profession,” Good, a graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, said. “This is a different feel and a different style of learning. I think it’s going to benefit all of us.”

Neither Felts nor Good are strangers to the legal profession. Felts is the son of Allen Circuit Judge Thomas Felts and Good’s father and older brother are both attorneys.

While the decision to enroll in Indiana Tech was easy for Felts, who said his father has been a strong proponent of the law school, the decision-making process for Good entailed his father cross-examining and vetting the faculty and staff. In the end, he said, his dad thought attending the new school would be risky, but the risk would come with high rewards.

One major risk is that the new law school must receive accreditation from the American Bar Association. Some speakers drew attention to Indiana Tech Law School’s challenge of gaining ABA approval and its need to apply for provisional accreditation next year. Indiana does not allow graduates of unaccredited law schools for sit for the bar exam.

Felts and Good said if the school does not get provisional accreditation, they would leave. However, they quickly added they were confident the ABA will give its approval, especially since Indiana Tech has made such an investment in faculty and the facility, and since Alexander has experience on the ABA accreditation committee.

The classmates are also confident they are being well trained in law. They said their classes are demanding but credited what they described as an “extremely attentive” faculty with helping them learn.

“I have never been to a school where I felt the faculty cared so much,” Good said.•

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

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