Wilmington University to open law school

Wilmington University announced Wednesday evening that it would launch a law school. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON — Wilmington University announced late Wednesday that it will be launching a new law school, which would be a sea change in the state’s legal landscape, which has long had a unique program at the Delaware Law School. from Widener University.

The private New Castle-based university has been working on the project for more than a year but announced this week that a press conference on October 27 will officially introduce the school.

It is not yet known where the school would be based and when it would open. WilmU has Delaware campuses in New Castle, Brandywine Hundred, Dover and Georgetown, but the press conference taking place at Brandywine Hundred’s newest campus off US Route 202 might be a clue. A note on a school presentation site also reveals that it has not yet been approved by the American Bar Association’s Legal Education and Bar Admissions Section Council, meaning it is likely to start next fall at earlier.

The launch of a law school is a major expansion for WilmU, which has increasingly moved to meet the needs of working adults in recent years, particularly through its MBA program. It’s a formula the school will continue to embrace with the law school, stating on its website that “course schedules and programs have been designed to maximize benefits for students who can balance work commitments and personal in addition to their legal studies.

This would be the first challenge to state dominance over the Widener School which is also on Route 202 near the Concord Mall. In 2010, the University of Delaware began to investigate the viability of a public law school but the idea was ultimately scuttled less than one year laterleaving the private Widener as the only option in the state.

It is also a departure from a partnership forged between the two schools in 2016, which guaranteed the enrollment of qualified WilmU graduates in Widener’s Juris Doctorate program.

Tellingly, WilmU touts its “very competitive tuition rates” for the impending program, with full-time students being charged $24,000 per year and part-time students being charged $18,000. By comparison, Widener’s Delaware Law School tuition is about $57,000 per year for full-time students or $43,000 for part-time students, more than double what WilmU expects.

The WilmU program will also launch amid a period of change at Widener, where Rodney Smolla, who helped found the Delaware-based program as dean seven years ago, left in July to take over Vermont Law School. Alicia Kelly now serves as acting dean, who was most recently associate dean for academic affairs and professor of law.

Meanwhile, the new school is headed by Dean Phillip J. Closius, who previously headed the highly regarded University of Baltimore Law School and the University of Toledo School of Law. He has also taught at Southwestern University School of Law (California), University of Bridgeport School of Law (Connecticut), and Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law.

The Columbia Law School graduate practiced law at several firms before entering academia and continues to work with Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White, a Maryland-based full-service civil and criminal law firm -Washington, DC.

No other faculty have yet been announced, although WilmU said the faculty would be “selected for their broad experience, commitment to excellence in teaching, and dedication to making a difference in the lives of their students.” . The school is also committed to diversity, equity and inclusion so that its listing “reflects the diverse communities it will serve.”

This commitment comes less than a year after a steering committee made up of judges, lawyers and educators published a report who found Delaware’s bass and shoal lacked the diversity of its population. Among the challenges identified were the cost of a law degree and expanding access to underrepresented students graduating from a community college or bachelor’s degree program, which WilmU could help address.

The announcement of the new law school was well received by the Delaware State Bar Associationwhich represents, supports and defends state attorneys.

“There is a great need for talented new lawyers at an unprecedented level,” said Charles Durante, president of the Delaware state bar association and partner at Wilmington law firm Connolly Gallagher, Delaware. Business Times. “Therefore, it is fair to say that Delaware lawyers wish Wilmington University well in this endeavour.”

Nancy I. Romero