Law Schools

Chicago to get a public law school: John Marshall acquired by University of Illinois system

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John Marshall Law School

Susan Montgomery /

After more than two years of discussions, the University of Illinois’ board of trustees Thursday approved a plan to acquire Chicago’s John Marshall School of Law, a private stand-alone institution.

The deal is expected to be in place by the fall 2019 semester. The institution will be known as the UIC John Marshall Law School, according to a news release, and it will be Chicago’s first public law school.

John Marshall, which has full-time and and evening programs, is often seen as a law school that welcomes nontraditional students, and that won’t change with the acquisition, say Susan Poser, the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“We wanted a law school where we could align our missions, and it really was a good fit. They are one of the most diverse law schools in the country, that was founded as a place that was nontraditional, and that’s very aligned with how we think about academics,” Poser added. She hopes that there will be significant interdisciplinary work between the law school and existing university programs, which include a medical school, a pharmacy school and a PhD programs in special education, bioengineering and nursing.

Full-time tuition at John Marshall is now is $48,600, and new tuition once the acquisition is in place will be set by the University of Illinois’ board of trustees, Poser said.

“Since we will be a public law school, we are hoping for a significant tuition reduction,” she added.

Darby Dickerson

John Marshall owns various pieces of downtown Chicago real estate that will be gifted to UIC, says Darby Dickerson, the law school’s dean. Faculty who are with the law school when the acquisition is finalized will continue at UIC, she says, adding that faculty voted unanimously in favor of the acquisition.

The law school recently offered a buyout for senior faculty members, and six took it, according to Dickerson. She plans to stay with the law school after the acquisition is in place and anticipates adding five new tenure-line professors, who will start in fall 2019.

Before law school applications dropped, John Marshall had a total of 1,600 students, Dickerson says, and she’s hoping to have a student body with between 1,200 and 1,300 members once the acquisition is in place. Approximately 900 students are currently enrolled in John Marshall’s JD, LLM and Master of Jurisprudence programs, according to the news release.

The law school’s median LSAT score for 2017 was 148, and the median undergraduate GPA was 3.1, according to its Standard 509 Information Report. Becoming a public school with lower tuition will likely attract more students, which could raise median scores, Dickerson says.

“That being said, we will maintain our historical commitment to access. This was not something we had to fight for, everyone understood it’s part of our history and our mission. That’s why this is such a good fit,” Dickerson says. According to Dickerson, many undergraduates at UIC have Pell Grants and come from the Chicago Public School system.

There is currently one law school in the University of Illinois System, at the downstate Urbana campus. It has a total of 436 students, with a median LSAT score of 161 and median undergraduate GPA of 3.61, according to its 509 report. There are also public law schools at Northern Illinois University and Southern Illinois University.

John Marshall is an ABA-accredited law school, and the acquisition involves a major change application with the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

“We have had preliminary conversations with the law school and the university about the ABA process for acquiescing in this major change. We are confident that both institutions understand what our process requires and look forward to working with them as the project moves forward,” says Barry Currier, the ABA’s managing director of accreditation and legal education, wrote in an email to the ABA Journal.

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