Legal Education

Deal to acquire Concordia law school no longer in place; dean says news was big surprise

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Concordia University School of Law

Concordia University School of Law. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The Concordia University School of Law in Idaho will close, following months of uncertainty for the Boise institution.

The Idaho Statesman reported Thursday that a proposed deal that had previously been announced in February whereby the law school would be acquired by Concordia University St. Paul, was dead. According to the Statesman, an online education company has sued Concordia Portland for $300 million and placed a lien on the Idaho campus, which prevented Concordia St. Paul from buying the law school campus.

The law school had announced in February that it was looking to be acquired after it’s parent institution, Portland’s Concord University, announced its closure. The same month, a deal was announced where law school ownership would be transferred to Concordia University St. Paul. The closure announcement comes a little over a month after the council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar accepted the acquisition proposal.

Latonia Haney Keith, the law school’s interim dean, told the ABA Journal she could not comment on the specifics. According to her, accreditation approval was on its way from a regional accreditor and the Department of Education, and until this week she expected the full transition to be finalized by the end of the month.

“What I can say is this issue was completely unforeseen and unexpected and frankly inexplicable, especially at this late hour. This is not something we thought would happen because there were other things going on that would give us a signal. This is a true shock,” says Keith, who announced the news to students yesterday in a Zoom call.

When the council accepted the acquisition proposal, the decision also detailed a teach-out plan if the deal was not finalized by Aug. 1. The teach-out plan in the decision allows Concordia to be an ABA-accredited program for existing students up to June 2024, but Keith says that will need to be modified as well, because funding for the law school is now uncertain. She plans to have a modified teach-out plan proposal filed with the council in time for its August meeting.

The University of Idaho College of Law has tentatively offered admission to second- and third-year Concordia students, the Idaho Statesman reports. That works out to 145 students, Jerry Long, U of I’s law school dean, told the newspaper. He also said they would look first to Concordia when hiring staff.

Other law schools have also reached out to help, says Keith. According to her, applications were up for the fall 2020 term, despite issues over the past few months.

“Our population of students have a higher-percentage of people who normally would be considered nontraditional, who are married with children,” she says, adding that many Concordia students come from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds.

“It’s gut-wrenching,” adds Keith, whose school received full ABA accreditation in February 2019.

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