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Q&A: Mary Ann Swain on the proposed law school

Mary Ann Swain, provost and vice president for academic affairs, recently spoke with Inside about the University’s plans to create a law school.

What is driving the establishment of the law school?

Binghamton University has been preparing for a law school for the past eight years, as outlined in its strategic plan and memo of understanding with the SUNY system. The law school will leverage the University’s academic strengths and expand educational opportunities for students. It will also enrich the state’s ability to provide a broad range of affordable academic and professional educational services of the highest quality to its populace.

What is the vision for the law school?

Binghamton’s goal is to be one of the best public law schools in the nation. We are confident that the caliber of legal education we will develop will be on a par with the excellence already achieved in our other programs.

Will the law school focus on a specific law program or specialty or will it be broad in scope?

The University is working to determine the optimal curriculum based upon the needs and opportunities in legal services in the state and nation. These decisions are being made in consultation with the American Bar Association, a consultant and input from regional and state officials. The University is developing a curricular plan that will include a unique 3 + 3 program, offering qualified students the opportunity to begin their legal education after completing three years of undergraduate study.

How will a law school intellectually enhance and complement Binghamton University’s programs?

A law school will add to the intellectual capital of the campus by bringing in talented faculty and students. It will be built upon our foundation of academic excellence in Harpur College, such as the Philosophy, Politics and Law; Social, Political, Ethical and Legal Philosophy (SPEL); and Political Science programs.

Where will it be physically located?

A location has yet to be determined.

What are the one-time expenditures and how will they be paid for?

The University seeks funds from a variety of sources, the state Legislature, SUNY system administration, corporate/business partners and private donors. We anticipate that the funds for the building would come from the capital budget or other sources specific to facilities and capital expenditures. We have requested and received some state funding for planning.

Would a law school divert private, charitable dollars?

Some of the University’s strongest advocates are lawyers and have indicated an interest in supporting this initiative. Gifts to the University often beget further giving, and we anticipate the law school will increase overall giving.

Who will attend the law school? How many Binghamton students will attend? Who else will it draw?

We are proposing a law school for approximately 550 students. A recent survey of current students indicates that Binghamton students would be highly interested in continuing their education at a Binghamton law school due to the quality and the affordability we will offer.

The pool of Binghamton students that attends law school is strong. We are routinely among the top 50 “feeder” schools in the nation. In the most recent year for which there are statistics (the 2005-2006 application year), 315 members of the University’s graduating class and alumni applied to law school. Of those, 83 percent of the graduating seniors who applied to law school were accepted, compared to the national average senior acceptance rate of 71 percent.

Others who will be drawn to a law school at Binghamton include those who are familiar with the high-quality education Binghamton provides.

How does the law school fit into what is happening across SUNY?

Each of the SUNY research universities is growing and developing. Buffalo, for example, has 27,000 students and 12 schools while Stony Brook has 23,000 students and 11 schools (two of which — business and journalism — were added in the past two years). The law school dovetails with our strengths, fulfills a need at the state level and is part of Binghamton’s focus on strategic growth and quality education.

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Last Updated: 10/14/08