Law Schools

Southern New England Law Dean Prepares for Battle over Merger Plan

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Southern New England law school dean Robert Ward is preparing for battle over his school’s plan to merge with the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and become the state’s first public law school.

Ward defended his school during a tour of the campus with a Boston Globe reporter.

Ward says the idea is to gain ABA accreditation for his school while keeping tuition low. Tuition and fees at the school would be increased only slightly to $23,500, about half the cost of the Suffolk University and New England law schools.

Southern New England would donate its campus and assets to the University of Massachusetts in an offer valued at about $22.6 million. Rival law schools oppose the plan as a taxpayer-funded bailout, the story says. Critics point to Southern New England’s poor bar pass rates and criticize its faculty as undistinguished.

“My students and faculty have been maligned,” and the criticism is unfair, Ward told the Globe. He points to a retired appeals court judge, a Harvard law graduate, on his faculty and alumni who include prosecutors, a police chief and legal aid lawyers.

According to the story: “Both sides are girding for a high-stakes fight over the future of Ward’s school. They have retained prominent public relations firms, begun behind-the-scenes lobbying of politicians and education boards, and penned letters to the editor—all in preparation for a Nov. 18 UMass trustees’ meeting about the proposal. Members are expected to receive the merger application today.”

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