Indiana Lawyer’s top story of 2018 began inside an Indianapolis bar in the cool early-morning hours of Thursday, March 15. Attorney General Curtis Hill had had a few drinks. A few too many, several witnesses would later claim.
Despite disappointment over the decision to close the 139-year-old law school, leaders in the Indiana legal profession said they could not have done anything to change the outcome. Selecting students, hiring faculty, developing curriculum and maintaining finances are all internal workings of a law school.
With Valparaiso University Law School facing an uncertain future, law professor Jeremy Telman used his remarks during the May 20 graduation ceremony to underscore the institution’s 138-year impact on the legal profession, as well as to hint at the void that would be created if the law school ceases to exist.
The closing of 4-year-old Indiana Tech Law School in Fort Wayne, and the revelation that 138-year-old Valparaiso University Law School faced an uncertain future, made law school troubles the top legal news story of 2017, as determined by the staff of Indiana Lawyer. Changes on the federal and state bench also were among the year's top stories.
The U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 list of the best law schools brought mixed results for Indiana with two institutions slipping in the rankings and all three having well over 60 percent of students graduate with average debt of more than $90,000.
As bar exam passage rates continue to decline and a majority of states move to a Uniform Bar Examination, the Indiana Supreme Court is taking steps to determine if the Hoosier state should follow suit and change its gateway test for admission to the Indiana bar.
Amid slumping passage rates, the Indiana Supreme Court has created a special commission to review the state’s bar exam and make recommendations for changes in format or content, including whether to modify what is considered a passing score.
After the Tennessee Commission of Higher Education rejected the transfer plans between Valparaiso Law School and Middle Tennessee State University, the northwest Indiana institution had no other options. Although the decision to close may not have surprised many, especially since the university had been upfront about the troubles the legal education program was having, it was still an emotional blow.
The work to move the law school from Valparaiso to Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro has stopped, and both schools have indicated they are not going to continue to pursue the transfer, leaving the fate of Valparaiso Law School uncertain.
Valparaiso Law School, founded in 1879, will be ceasing operations after a search for alternatives to remain open ended in disappointment. In an announcement Tuesday, Valparaiso University stated it will continue to teach-out the current law students in a timely manner and then cease operations.
In an 8-5 vote Monday, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission rejected the proposal to transfer Valparaiso Law School to Middle Tennessee State University. The commission’s denial ends the work the two schools started in November 2017 to move the northwest Indiana law school to Murfreesboro, Tennessee.