In this issue:
Planning Process Examines Two-Location (Moscow and Boise) Approach
As reported in prior editions of “First Monday,” the College of Law will celebrate its centennial in 2009. The College is engaged in strategic planning on how best to fulfill the University of Idaho’s statewide mission in legal education during our second century. The planning process has included regular meetings of a faculty committee and of the full faculty, open discussions with staff and students, conferences with senior University leadership, a three-day “Conclave on Idaho Legal Education in the 21st Century” co-sponsored by the College of Law and Idaho State Bar, consultations with members of the Board of Regents (State Board of Education), and a public informational presentation to the Board and its staff.
Last month’s “First Monday” noted the importance of the State Board-assigned statewide mission and provided the following overview of the planning process:
Our focus is, and must be, on what is best for the students and the State of Idaho. Our law students deserve an affordable, high-quality professional education that enables them to graduate with manageable debt, to pursue their ideals, and to compete effectively for jobs wherever career opportunities are available. Idaho, in turn, needs legal expertise, leadership in business and government, research on law-and-policy issues, and law school outreach to the state’s population centers along with rural communities.
These student and state interests all demand excellence and accessibility in public legal education. They will require increased investment in the Treasure Valley – Idaho’s largest center of population, government, and commerce – for the University of Idaho to fulfill its statewide responsibility. With a metropolitan population now exceeding 500,000, Boise is one of very few cities its size in the United States – and the only such city containing a state capital – that lacks a law school within or near its boundaries.
The College of Law is studying three possible approaches to fulfilling the statewide mission:
- Enlarging the program at Moscow while increasing research and outreach in Boise, and perhaps giving students the option of pursuing their last year in Boise (where externships and a “semester in practice” are already available).
- Relocating most of the instruction to Boise while retaining research and outreach at Moscow, including interdisciplinary ventures such as the “Water of the West” program.
- Phasing in a dual location structure in which the program would continue in Moscow while Boise activities would expand over time into a second location where the law degree could be earned (perhaps with a part-time study option). Under this approach law teaching, research, and outreach eventually would be conducted by the University of Idaho at both Moscow and Boise.
It is important to emphasize that under each approach, regardless of location(s), the legal education program would be shaped and provided by one law faculty under unified administration in the College of Law as an integral part of the University of Idaho.
The College is gathering data and undertaking a careful analysis …
Last month (October) the College received the results of surveys conducted with assistance from a professional polling consultant. The surveys encompassed Idaho lawyers, prospective law students, law school applicants who had been accepted at the UI College of Law but chose to go elsewhere, and current UI law students who responded to an internal poll.
- The survey of Idaho lawyers – selected randomly throughout the state, and not limited to UI law alumni – showed a high level of support for the College. Of the lawyers interviewed, 73% believed they possessed sufficient awareness of the College to rate the quality of legal education it provides. Within this group all but 2% (i.e., 71%) gave the educational program a rating of good (39%) or excellent (32%). Among all survey respondents, 88% said they would recommend that prospective students apply to the UI College of Law, and 85% said they would recommend that applicants accept an offer from the College. A majority (58%) also said they knew people in their communities whom they considered qualified to attend law school and who would benefit from a part-time legal education option if it were available. (Part-time legal education involves the same admissions process and curriculum as the full-time J.D. degree program, but it allows students to complete their requirements over a longer period of time, such as four years rather than the customary three years.)
- The survey of prospective law students revealed that 59% would consider the College more attractive, and 17% would consider it less attractive, if it were located in Boise. Among the surveyed students who had been offered admission to the College but chose to go elsewhere, 65% said they would have been much more likely (23%) or somewhat more likely (42%) to accept the College’s offer if it had been located in Boise, while 17% said they would have been less likely to accept. Among the current UI law students (who, of course, are now in Moscow), 56% said they would prefer to attend law school in Boise while 44% would prefer Moscow. Substantial numbers of the prospective students (43%), and of the law students who were offered admission to the College but went elsewhere (24%), said that part-time legal education would be, or would have been, of interest to them. All student groups put the cost of legal education (and future debt), academic quality, and job opportunities high on the list of factors affecting their decisions.
In light of these findings and other data, the College’s survey consultant concluded (a) that Idaho lawyers are widely impressed with the University of Idaho College of Law, (b) that there is interest in a part-time legal education program in Idaho, and (c) that there is statewide demand for legal education with a significant market potential for the College of Law to offer a J.D. program in Boise.
The College also received in October a recommendation from its academic consultant for strategic planning: Richard J. Morgan, chair of the American Bar Association accreditation standards committee, immediate past dean of the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada/Las Vegas, and former dean of law schools at Arizona State University and the University of Wyoming. Dean Morgan concluded that of the various approaches under consideration, a phased two-location approach (Moscow and Boise) would best facilitate the statewide mission of the College of Law, assuming that sufficient resources could be marshaled to implement it.
On October 22, 2007, the College of Law Advisory Council, a distinguished group of judges and lawyers from diverse locations in Idaho and the nation, met with the academic consultant, the senior University of Idaho leadership, and the law faculty in Moscow. The Council made the following findings and recommendation:
[W]e reaffirm that the College of Law is a critical part of Idaho’s land-grant university and of the university community in Moscow. The University of Idaho’s exclusive statewide mission in legal education, as prescribed by the Board of Regents/State Board of Education, is fundamentally important to – and an institutional responsibility of – the University. We are also mindful that the College of Law must continue to be responsive to the needs of the Idaho Bench and Bar as key members of our constituency.
In order to continue fulfilling its statewide mission, the University must take account of rapid growth and changes in Idaho, as well as emerging trends in American legal education. The status quo will not be adequate in the “second century” of the College of Law, as it prepares its students to provide guidance, advice and knowledge in an expanding global and highly complex environment. Students at the College of Law need and deserve an education which will provide a solid basis from which they can face a vast array of career and life challenges in Idaho as well as throughout the country
With these considerations in mind, and after extensive thought and discussion, the Law Advisory Council recommends that the College of Law and the University of Idaho create, and take to the State Board, a proposal that expresses a bold vision of high-quality legal education in Idaho. This education should be delivered by the University of Idaho at Moscow and at Boise, with courses of study leading to the J.D. degree at both locations. The locations may offer different emphases within an overall curriculum shaped by a unified faculty in the College of Law, and administered as an integral part of the University of Idaho. Planning for the Boise location should include continued exploration of possible collaboration between the College and the Idaho Supreme Court in an “Idaho Law Learning Center.”
In making this recommendation, the following conditions are critical to the Council’s understanding and support:
- The University Administration has committed its best efforts to provide, and will vigorously support the College of Law in obtaining, the resources necessary to achieve high quality at both the Moscow and Boise locations.
- The College and the University will craft a business plan that addresses current and future needs of the College of Law in Moscow as well as needs at Boise.
- The Boise location will be developed as a satellite or branch in phases consistent with accreditation standards, the overall adequacy of resources, and the depth and quality of the applicant pool.
On October 31, 2007, the law faculty voted to adopt “in principle” the recommendation of the Law Advisory Council and to join in the Council’s statement of the three critical conditions. The faculty also authorized the creation of a “second century committee” to plan the implementation of a phased, two-location approach, and to develop a proposal for consideration by the State Board, which has the ultimate power of decision.
Developing this proposal likely will require several months; implementation of such a proposal, if approved, would extend over several years. Nonetheless, a vision for the future of Idaho legal education, recognizing the importance of both Moscow and Boise, has begun to emerge. The College is grateful to all whose thoughtful efforts have brought us to this point.
Further information about the strategic planning process is available from Dean Burnett at (firstname.lastname@example.org) and at the College of Law website.
Law Students Excel in McNichols Moot Court Competition
Saturday, November 3, marked the final day of the 19th Annual Raymond C. McNichols Moot Court Competition. A signature event at the College of Law, the McNichols competition is underwritten by Lewiston attorney Michael E. McNichols in honor of his late father, one of Idaho’s most esteemed federal judges.
This year’s competition attracted a record number of participants (43). The final round was judged by the Hon. Linda Copple Trout, retired Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court; the Hon. Lonny Suko, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Washington; the Hon. Juneal C. Kerrick, District Judge of the Third Judicial District, State of Idaho; Lt. Col. Michael P. Gilbert, U.S. Marine Corps Staff Judge Advocate and former military judge; and Mr. McNichols.
The 2007 best oralist award was bestowed on 2L student Ryan Holdaway, a graduate of Boise State University, while the runner-up award went to 2L Christopher Smith, who received his baccalaureate degree from the University of Nevada/Reno. Other semifinalists were 2L students Kevin Griffiths (College of Idaho) and Ross Pittman (University of Idaho). The best brief award was earned by 2L Rachel Parise (University of Arizona), and the runner-up in that category was Mr. Griffiths. An additional award recognizing overall excellence in written and oral advocacy was presented to 2L Brenda Forrest (College of Idaho).