Chicago has a public law school — at last

Goodbye to The John Marshall Law School. Given that it dates back 120 years, it’d be hard to say it didn’t have a good run. 

And let’s say hello to UIC John Marshall Law School, which is its new name, following the completion of its merger with University of Illinois at Chicago. 

It’s a big deal. The former private, stand-alone school becomes Chicago’s first public law school.

And it’s already paying one of the biggest dividends that supporters of the move hoped for: It’s cheaper. For in-state students, tuition is about $10,000 less. This fall's class is the first one under the new school.  

The merger is yet another sign of how legal education is evolving. Stand-alone schools have had a tougher road surviving the legal education crisis. They did not have the support of larger university systems to help weather the downturn.  They have to rely mostly on tuition as revenue.

The law school will also benefit from having more colleges in which to partner when it comes to dual degrees and other academic offerings, making it more attractive to prospective students.

For UIC, the benefit is having a law school among its higher education offerings. It did not before.

The idea of the merger dates back two years, but it took some time for all of the details to be worked out. According to a FAQ on the school’s web site, the deal went thusly:

“The transaction was structured as an asset transfer agreement with substantially all John Marshall assets being transferred to the UIC and the University of Illinois Foundation. No state funds or funds allocated to other UIC colleges and schools were used to acquire The John Marshall Law School.”

The John Marshall Law School Board has been disbanded. The school will be run by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. The school will remain at its downtown site.

This would not be the first time an independent law school merged with a public institution. The University of Massachusetts acquired Southern New England School of Law, a small private school, in 2010. Also in 2010, Franklin Pierce Law Center affiliated with University of New Hampshire.

The Dickinson School of Law merged with Penn State University in 2000. Michigan State University took over Detroit College of Law in 1995 and eventually moved it to East Lansing.