Save law school

As a 1986 graduate of the NIU College of Law, I am writing to urge that you reject the IBHE staff’s recommendation to eliminate the law college.

The recommendation appears to be based on an erroneous “supply and demand” analysis. Even assuming the analysis is correct—that more attorneys will be looking for fewer jobs in Illinois in the near future—the analysis can’t stop there. If it does, how many other programs must be eliminated from higher education in the state? For example, if all of NIU’s history graduates could not find jobs in their fields, does the IBHE intend on eliminating the history program? How about the nursing program? Accounting? The law college should not be treated any differently than any other program.

The IBHE must consider other factors, such as the quality of the law school’s education, the opportunities the law school brings for students and other benefits the College of Law brings for the university and the region.

Quality can be measured in many ways. Review the faculty and their credentials. Examine the graduates and their accomplishments. The young law school already boasts a number of judges in the ranks of its alumni. After practicing law for six years, I’ve yet to encounter an unresolvable legal problem that can be traced to lack of education. In fact, my legal training at NIU College of Law trained me more than adequately; as a result, my legal practice in Las Vegas has been very successful.

In addition, NIU’s College of Law provides a unique, inexpensive, yet challenging opportunity for members of the public in Northern Illinois (and elsewhere) who are interested in learning law. In my own experience, I chose NIU over a private Chicago law school because NIU provided as good or better an education at a much cheaper price. The law school also is on the campus of a major state university, with its social, cultural and educational opportunities.

For graduates of the College of Law, opportunities extend outside the practice of law and beyond the state’s boundaries. A growing number of law school alumni (myself included) have succeeded in challenging career opportunities all over the country. Eliminating the law school could mean adverse consequences nationwide.

Finally, eliminating the NIU College of Law will eliminate all the benefits the law school has brought to DeKalb and Northern Illinois University. For example, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackman would never come to DeKalb, Illinois, if not for the law school. (How do you suppose he will react when he learns the law school he dedicated is being eliminated?) How many times will the state appellate court meet in DeKalb if the law school is gone? Many local attorneys, law offices, social service agencies and corporations have tapped into the wealth of legal knowledge and employment force that is available because of the existence of the NIU College of Law. Eliminating the law school will move the Northern Illinois legal community backward 15 years.

If the IBHE is to consider eliminating the College of Law at NIU, please analyze all the factors discussed above before making any final judgement. I’m sure you will conclude that the benefits of the law school far outweigh both the costs of running it and the loss that will befall Northern Illinois University by eliminating it.

Philip J. Dabney, Esq.

Law School Graduate