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Indiana’s 5th law school opens

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Within the Allen County legal community, the opening of Indiana Tech Law School has drawn mixed reaction.

Some lawyers question opening a new law school and see the idea of producing more attorneys in a tight job market as exploiting students, according to David Van Gilder, attorney at Van Gilder & Trzynka P.C., in Fort Wayne. On the other hand, some are supportive and positive about the school. As of opening day, many are ambivalent.
 

school-15col.jpg Indiana Tech Law School Dean Peter Alexander (IL Photo/ Kelly Lucas)

The reality is Indiana’s fifth law school has built a new facility, hired faculty, enrolled students and started classes, so the local bar association has really one option. It needs to support and collaborate with the school, Van Gilder said, or the local bar will be cast in a very negative light.

Indiana Tech Law School Dean Peter Alexander has noticed growing support from the bench and bar. About 75 local judges and attorneys have signed on to be mentors for the students, and non-profits and government organizations have offered more than 100 externship placement possibilities for second- and third-year students.

Of course, the students will ultimately determine the success of the school. As the doors open, Indiana Tech Law School has 30 students in its inaugural class.

“It is possible they won’t attract enough people to make an economic go it,” Van Gilder said. This is a “hard time to start a law school.”

Sustaining a 5th school

In the blogosphere, the criticism of Indiana Tech has been unrelenting. High-profile professionals along with many disgruntled law school graduates have questioned Indiana Tech’s motives and implored students not to attend.

Even the board of directors was skeptical of the idea when Indiana Tech President Arthur Snyder first approached them about three years ago, said Robert Wagner, vice chair of the board.

However, as the board studied the idea, consulting outside counsel and reviewing the finding from a feasibility committee, the board arrived at the conclusion that northeast Indiana has a need for its own law school, said Wagner, attorney at Shambaugh Kast Beck & Williams LLP.

He conceded the review was conducted before employment rates of law graduates declined and the burden of student loans hit the news. Not all the Allen County attorneys the board talked to were optimistic about the school.

Still, the board wanted to make post-graduate options available to Indiana Tech students as well as give northeast Indiana students who want to become lawyers the option of attending law school close to home.

Wells Circuit Court Judge Kenton Kiracofe can understand the benefit of having a university within driving distance. The Allen County native attended IPFW as an undergraduate because going away to school would have been too expensive. Still, he conceded his feelings are mixed about opening the new law school.

“I hope the law school is successful,” the judge said. “My concern is just the cost of going to law school. Having a regional law school doesn’t solve that.”

Hands-on curriculum

Alexander has tirelessly countered the ongoing denunciations, maintaining Indiana Tech will be different from the established law schools.

He explained the school is combining best practices from most law schools around the country. Its curriculum involves bringing theory and practice together earlier in the students’ school career and talking about ethics and professionalism at the start rather than waiting until graduation is looming.

“So with no history, no recalcitrant faculty, no administrators saying, ‘Don’t do anything dangerous,’ we have no barriers,” Alexander said. “We decided to go out and find those best practices around the country, add some of our own and bring them all here from the start. So in a way, this is just a grand experiment to see how much creativity a law school can have and be successful.”

The school plans to have seven clinics where students will have the opportunity to do a range of legal work from mediating disputes between undergraduates and writing wills for Indiana Tech faculty to filing the intellectual property paperwork and helping an Indiana Tech engineering student or professor bring his or her invention to market.

Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Paul Mathias noted how the school will fare is uncertain, but its approach toward involving the legal community is different and poses a stronger paradigm than many other law schools.

A native of Allen County and former Allen Superior Court judge, Mathias welcomed the school, saying it adds substantial value and pride to the local legal community.

“It’s an exciting development for Allen County and Fort Wayne and the presiding bar there,” Mathias said. “But more importantly, it’s an exciting alternative to traditional law schools. It is certainly an alternative that merits consideration from folks who are thinking about attending law school.”

Van Gilder agreed, saying he believes Indiana Tech’s emphasis on clinical work as well as the school providing mentors for all students is probably the best way to educate attorneys.

As for those who question the school’s approach, Van Gilder pointed to his own experience teaching as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne.

Over the three-year period he has taught graduate-level courses in the environmental health program, students enrolling for online classes have doubled. While he was skeptical of putting college classes on the web, he admitted it has become the trend in higher education.


school2-15col.jpg Guadalupe Luna, professor of law at Indiana Tech Law School, said she wanted to be a part of the new law school because of its commitment to ethics and to giving students more hands-on experience. (IL Photo/ Kelly Lucas)

In light of that experience, Van Gilder concludes just because something new has come along, that does not mean it can’t be successful.

Lawyers and jobs

Indiana Tech founding faculty member Guadalupe Luna countered the common complaint against the school that it will be bringing more lawyers into a market that has little need by arguing that the data showing fewer jobs for attorneys is skewed.

Jobs at the big law firms that were regularly filled by law school graduates have dried up but, Luna said, the need for legal representation among people at the bottom and middle of the socioeconomic scale remains strong.

The school’s holistic approach will prepare students for “defending the common man” as well as working in law firms by teaching the core doctrine along with showing students, first hand, the impact court decisions can have on people’s lives.

Van Gilder echoed Luna by saying there are not too many lawyers but rather too many lawyers not doing the right things. Allen County and the surrounding counties have plenty of work for attorneys, but the caveat is not all of it is paying work.

Of the 800 members of the Allen County Bar Association, he said, just 180 offer their services for the Volunteer Lawyer Program of Northeast Indiana, Inc. The influx of graduates from Indiana Tech Law School might provide more volunteer attorneys.

From his bench in Wells County, Kiracofe has seen both too few attorneys and too many people representing themselves. The root of the problem is not a lack of lawyers but rather the economics of the county. Few residents can afford attorneys whether they are available or not, and those practicing law have to get paid for their services in order to support themselves.

Auburn attorney W. Erik Weber of Mefford Weber and Blythe P.C. believes the new law school can be a positive for the lawyers who have established offices in the region. The firms may be able to hire the Indiana Tech law students as interns during the school year. At present, the distance to northeast Indiana makes taking an internship while classes are in session impractical for students studying at law schools in other parts of the state.

Many opportunities for volunteering and interning may be available to Indiana Tech law students, but what about paying jobs after they graduate?

Van Gilder pointed out finding a position is hard right now for graduates of any law school. The key to getting a job is being able to do the work without needing a lot of handholding.

After graduation from American University, Van Gilder worked in a windowless office doing discovery, researching and writing briefs. Yet he did not have the practical skills to write a will or work on a domestic violence case or help a business owner with an immigration issue.

Today, as someone who hires attorneys, Van Gilder said he prefers lawyers who can talk to people, have empathy and know their way around a courtroom. Usually the candidates who fit that description, he said while admitting he was making a sweeping generalization, did not graduate at the top of their law school class and often had to have a job to pay the tuition.

If Indiana Tech law graduates applied to his firm for a job, Van Gilder said he would interview them and gauge their skills just as he would any graduate from any other law school.•

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  • Fantasy Land
    Anonymous's previous comments are 100% on the mark. From an atty. whose practice is 30-40% pro bono at any given time. Most attys need to feed their family oatmeal in the morning and the grocery store will not give pro bono attys free or discounted food similarly other merchants will not give pro bono litigators discounts, so how does such an atty purchase the material goods that are minimally necessary accoutrements of life if they service an inordinate amount of clients at the "bottom and middle of the socioeconomic scale". They may be able to do so if they have no intention of ever providing above minimally decent housing and other incidents of well being for themselves or a family. There are a substantial number of attys doing pro bono work but what is the limit of that work for each atty? Maybe these students will find out after they have to try and find good paying positions just to pay back the loans. Hopefully in this tight job market the administrators are pointing this out to the students. The lofty goals expressed by the new schools spokespersons may end up in the 'cloud'. 30 years of Atticus Finch lawyering can lead to BK (except for school loans).
  • mistake
    I have practicing law for 20 years and have never seen such a tight job market. I do not think it will get better for a long time. Online legal services will continue to erode the work available for the type of lawyers this school will produce. I know an attorney who graduated at the top of her class 5 years ago with $100,000 in debt. It will take her 20 years to pay if off because she is so poorly paid. This law school is a very stupid idea. I feel sorry for the kids who go here. School officials who pushed this should be ashamed.
  • Indiana State Bar Association
    The ISBA should be disbanded for not opposing this law school. With the saturation of the job market, these kids are going to be graduating with $100K plus in debt and no jobs. The fact that a school official is talking about the school producing "volunteer (unpaid) attorneys" is outrageous. Hopefully people will have better sense than to enroll in Indiana Tech.
  • Fantasy Land
    "Van Gilder echoed Luna by saying there are not too many lawyers but rather too many lawyers not doing the right things. Allen County and the surrounding counties have plenty of work for attorneys, but the caveat is not all of it is paying work[. . .]The influx of graduates from Indiana Tech Law School might provide more volunteer attorneys." This is about the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. I do not think it's unreasonable for students who graduate at the top of their college class, then spend three years and over $100,000 (tuition only, plus whatever they spend on living expenses and whatever loan debt they carry from their undergraduate studies, plus the lost opportunity costs because they could have instead worked full-time for those three years and gained experience while earning a salary) to attend law school, to expect something more than just a, "Hey, why don't you guys just do some volunteer work? The problem isn't the job market; it's your mindset. You're doing the wrong thing by expecting to actually *gasp* be paid for your work." One of the first things adults ask each other upon meeting in a social situation for the first time is, "What do you do for a living?" Yes, because the primary reason that people who are not retired, disabled, or independently wealthy work is to survive. . . to earn a living. No normal adult wants to be 25+ and still living with their parents (assuming their parents are even still alive or amenable to having them live there). Last I checked, people need to put a roof over their head, food on the table, clothes on their back. . . not to mention stuff like daycare costs, health/dental/vision insurance, life insurance, car insurance, car payments, retirement savings, etc. Oh yeah, and those monumental student loan payments, too. Maybe Allen County works kind of like that book "The Secret"-- if you just change your outlook and stop thinking about your debt and obligations, and instead just focus on happy things like volunteer work, you will guide your destiny and the world will provide for you.
    • Article on Indiana Tech
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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.

      3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

      4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

      5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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