West Virginia lawmakers push to build Marshall University law school in Charleston

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Does West Virginia need more lawyers? Some delegates to the legislature say so, and they introduced a bill to establish a law school in Charleston.

Last Monday, House Bill 4425 was introduced to create a second law school in the Mountain State.

Lawmakers say the goal is to give non-traditional students more options to earn a law degree.

“We need it; a lot of big cities have these kinds of opportunities,” says delegate Matthew Rohrbach (R-Cabell).

Delegate Rohrbach introduced the bill. He says people who already have jobs need more flexibility than traditional law students.

If approved, the law school would be in South Charleston and affiliated with Marshall University. It would have a non-traditional attendance model, offering evening, weekend and evening classes.

“We have a law school that is strictly full-time, with a traditional attendance model. You could go part-time. So there’s a real need here for people who need a legal education, but they can’t really quit their profession and go to traditional law school for three years straight,” Rohrbach says.

It’s an idea that both sides of the aisle seem to agree with.

“It’s actually a good opportunity to work in a bipartisan way. I know Dr. Matt Rohrbach approached me and said, “Do you want to help us open a law school?” I said, absolutely. With John Marshall and our storied history, I think it’s fitting that we have a law school,” says delegate Sean Hornbuckle (D-Cabell).

However, is Marshall University on board?

A school spokesperson says he needs more study.

“We would need to do a feasibility study to see what is needed in terms of lawyers for the next ten years, the availability of a law library, the availability of instructors, professors,” says Leah Payne, director of communications at Marshall University.

Payne says the only other law school in the state is West Virginia University.

“The reception at the moment is a bit mixed. I think some of the immediate benefits are that we would probably bring a lot more people into the legal profession who historically haven’t been introduced to this. On the negative side, maybe Marshall might not be ready to use the resources yet to be able to do that. So it’s probably just a ‘wait and see,'” says Hornbuckle.

The bill still needs to be heard, it needs to be passed by the full House and Senate, and it needs funding.

Nancy I. Romero