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The Journal Gazette

  • Cercone

  • Pape

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 4:35 am

Legal tender

Indiana Tech officials were surely disappointed to learn this week that the university’s two-year-old law school did not earn accreditation. It’s a serious setback for the program and its students but not necessarily a death knell.

With some direction from the American Bar Association and continuing support from the community, the law school could attain accreditation and grow in strength and influence. Building a reputation in a field almost entirely dependent on reputation will take time, but nothing has changed from the perspective of northeast Indiana benefiting from the presence of another professional school.

Concerns about the need for the law school – and for more lawyers – cropped up from the beginning of Indiana Tech’s discussion. There are scores of law school graduates around the country who haven’t found work in traditional legal careers, and some websites and blog postings seemed to fixate on predicted failure for the program.

Tim Pape, managing partner of Carson Boxberger, was a member of the feasibility study committee for the law school.

"It had a very thorough and thoughtful process," he said. "(Indiana Tech) did their homework. They looked at law schools that had opened and had not been successful. They studied the issue; they had plenty of data to support the case that the state and region could support another law school. If you look at the baby-boomer generation and expected retirements, and at the expected growth in the economy, the case was there."

Pape said the program had been the unfortunate victim of "some really bad luck" in terms of lingering effects of the Great Recession, noting that the economy is showing signs of growth, which will increase demand in the legal profession.

"I think there has been a lot of enthusiasm for how the community, how the legal industry could benefit from the school," Pape said. "They have a wonderful commitment to professionalism that would greatly benefit the local legal community."

The departure of the law school’s founding dean inevitably hindered the accreditation process. Charles Cercone, former dean of Western Michigan’s Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, is the current dean. He told The Journal Gazette’s Rebecca S. Green that the school is working to implement suggestions from the ABA to strengthen its case for accreditation.

Any support the local community can offer will benefit not just Indiana Tech, but Fort Wayne and the region, which is enriched by every opportunity for professional studies.