The University of California San Diego has revived a decades-old plan to establish a law school through a partnership with California Western School of Law.
Discussions are preliminary, but the arrangement could range from a strengthened affiliation between the downtown San Diego private law school and the La Jolla public university to a full merger.
This month, faculty and administrators from both campuses formed a committee to explore the concept. Leaders of the two institutions emphasize that if a UCSD school of law were established it would be self-supporting and not involve any state or UCSD campus funds, at least initially.
Supporters of the partnership say it could advance research collaborations between the two campuses, expand learning opportunities for students and raise the prestige of both institutions.
“From our perspective, it would increase the value to our students in terms of the teaching we do, it would increase the value to society in terms of the research we can do, and it would increase service opportunities in San Diego,” said California Western’s dean, Steven R. Smith.
Critics question whether the school could be self-supporting and whether there’s a mismatch between UCSD’s research focus and California Western’s emphasis on teaching. Some also doubt the need for such a school, considering there are already five UC law schools. ...
Among the models being considered, Smith said, are the law schools at Michigan State University and Pennsylvania State University.
Penn State did not have a law school until 2000, when it merged with Dickinson School of Law, a private institution about 100 miles away. Since then, the school has been able to recruit distinguished scholars, increase the number of student applicants and broaden student diversity.
Michigan State characterizes its partnership with the former Detroit College of Law as an affiliation. The private school, renamed Michigan State University College of Law, has merged its academic policies and faculty governance with the public university. It remains financially independent and does not take any state funding. ...
The most difficult issues UCSD and California Western will need to resolve will likely be financial. “If they want to have a law school that has the same kind of student profile and faculty profile of other UC law schools, that’s a pretty expensive undertaking,” said Kevin Cole, dean of the University of San Diego School of Law. “The question is whether they have a model to allow that to happen and still lead to tuition rates that are sustainable.”