Two Law Schools in Maryland: the Facts

DONALD G GIFFORD and LAURENCE M. KATZ

November 13, 1992|By DONALD G. GIFFORD and LAURENCE M. KATZ

These are tough times for public legal education in Maryland. One newspaper story tells us that the state is facing another massive budget shortfall, there will be draconian budget cuts, and higher education will bear a disproportionate share. Another article describes a Baltimore law firm laying off 10 to 18 associates. At the highest level, our nation's leaders attack the legal profession.

Even some people with good faith and good intentions might ask why the State of Maryland should pay for two public law schools within two miles of each other in the city of Baltimore. What are the facts regarding state support for two law schools in Maryland?

1.Both law schools are thriving. The demand for legal education in the University of Maryland system is probably higher than for any other educational program. Applications are at the high-water mark in the history of both law schools (4,250 for 250 places at Maryland; 2,922 for 340 places in the entering class at Baltimore). This means that the two schools receive more than 12 applications for every admitted student. The quality of students, in terms of indices like grade-point averages and law-school aptitude test scores, is at an all-time high.

2.The two law schools are very inexpensive. The state contributes less than one-fourth of the operating budget for the University of Maryland School of Law and even less for the University of Baltimore School of Law. The rest of the budget is paid by student tuition, research grants and decades in which the state provided almost all the cost of public legal education. Four of the five other professional schools on the University of Maryland at Baltimore campus receive more state funding than the law school on that campus.

3.The number of graduates of Maryland law schools, compared to the state's population, is average or below average compared with the rest of the United States. Maryland ranks 26th among the 50 states in law-school graduates per capita; it ranks 44th in the number of law students per capita.

4.The two public law schools in Maryland provide the only opportunities for legal education for those from middle-class or working-class backgrounds. The average annual tuition at our closest competitors, the four fully accredited law schools in the District of Columbia, is between $16,650 and $17,650, more than $10,000 per year above the tuition a Maryland resident pays at our public law schools. These law schools also afford the only opportunities for those in the Baltimore area who are working dTC and attend law school on a part-time basis.

5.The two law schools already cooperate closely. Their law libraries work closely to avoid duplications. The schools jointly sponsor a special summer program. Each school talks with the )) other before beginning new programs or projects to avoid duplication.

6.Merger would generate prohibitive costs. There would be few, if any, operating economies in the merger of the two institutions. The combined student enrollment of the two schools would produce the largest public law school in America, which would be an unwieldy and complicated institution requiring additional, not less, administrative support. The Consultant on Legal Education to the American Bar Association examined the merger proposal in 1987 and concluded, ''The instructional cost might well be greater at the contemplated [merged] institution than at the two existing law schools.'' Further, there are significant non-monetary costs of merger. The Consultant on Legal Education warned that a merger ''might pose some accreditation difficulties.''

7.Maryland has two different, but thriving, law schools. In recent years, the University of Baltimore School of Law created international exchanges with law schools in Lithuania and Scotland and is developing a similar program with Baltimore's sister city, Odessa in Ukraine. Its expanded clinics in housing, family, civil and criminal law provide thousands of hours of service each year to Maryland citizens. In addition, it operates a thriving Graduate Tax Program in conjunction with the university's Merrick School of Business.

The University of Maryland School of Law's Clinical Program has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top five in the country, honored by the American Bar Association. Other programs in the areas of health-care law, law and entrepreneurship, environmental law, and East Asian legal studies also have received national acclaim.

To claim that Baltimore cannot support two public law schools is to misunderstand the scope of the law schools' missions and the populations they serve. Similar reasoning would suggest that Hartford, Connecticut, cannot afford several insurance companies. The Maryland law schools serve students from throughout the state, and indeed, throughout the United States.

Let us approach this issue as good lawyers. Let us not have the future of two outstanding law schools dictated by a moment where a state budget crisis, a downturn in the local employment market for lawyers, and lawyer-bashing at the highest national levels come together.

Donald G. Gifford and Laurence M. Katz are the deans, respectively, of the University of Maryland School of Law and the University of Baltimore School of Law. This article is reprinted, slightly abridged, from the Bar Bulletin.

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