Law Schools

Once rivals, two Minnesota law schools announce plans to merge

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Two Minnesota law schools have announced plans to merge, reducing the state’s number of law schools from four to three.

Hamline University School of Law and William Mitchell College of Law plan to merge after approval by the American Bar Association, according to a press release and coverage by the Star Tribune, the National Law Journal (sub. req.) and the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Above the Law and TaxProf Blog also noted the announcement.

William Mitchell and Hamline have been longtime rivals, even as they held intermittent, informal merger talks over the last 10 years, according to the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press. The new law school will be called the Mitchell | Hamline School of Law, and it will primarily be located at William Mitchell’s campus in St. Paul. The law school’s dean will be Mark Gordon, who is replacing Eric Janus as dean of William Mitchell.

The two schools are currently located about three miles from each other, the NLJ says.

Hamline’s first-year enrollment dropped more than 54 percent from 2011 to 2014, while William Mitchell’s 1L enrollment dropped nearly 45 percent during that period, the NLJ says, citing ABA figures.

Janus told the Star Tribune the merger will mean lost jobs for some faculty and staffers, but the schools hope to avoid layoffs through voluntary attrition.

Minnesota State Bar Association President Richard Kyle told the Star Tribune that the landscape for legal education has changed significantly, and law schools are looking for ways to adapt. “It’s a bold move, that’s for sure,” Kyle said.

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