University Of Akron, Cleveland State Considering Law School Merger

University of Akron Law School Building
The University of Akron School of Law and Cleveland-Marshall College of Law are exploring a merger. [University of Akron}
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Updated: 10:08 a.m., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020

The University of Akron and Cleveland State University may soon merge law schools.

The two Northeast Ohio schools announced a joint exploratory group Thursday to consider the creation of a unified school housed on both campuses. Such a merger would create the largest law school in Ohio and one of the largest public law schools in the country.

The deans of both the University of Akron School of Law and Cleveland-Marshall College of Law are co-chairing the working group and will make recommendations in the fall. Akron’s law school dean C.J. Peters said the partnership seems like a natural fit because of the schools’ geographic proximity and similar student profiles and history.

“The goal of this is really to build something that I think will better serve our students in the community and that we can all be proud of in that job,” Peters told ideastream Thursday. “Because I think it's going to create a law school that is going to be extremely competitive in the market for students and for graduate jobs.”

Earlier this year, the two schools announced they are cross-registering eight courses for the fall 2020 semester, in an effort to leverage the strengths of both schools, which are about 40 miles away from each other, and expand curricular opportunities. 

Peters said being able to pool resources and teaching staff would be advantageous for both universities.

“We could enjoy some economies of scale that would allow us to enhance our clinical programs – which are very important to our respective communities – enhance our relationships with the local bar associations and the local practicing bars in both locations, and provide more educational programing and legal events to both of our communities,” he said.

The idea to potentially join law schools was not a result of the financial impact of the coronavirus, according to Peters, but rather out of the need for universities to be more “creative” in terms of partnerships.

“In this instance, Dean Lee Fisher [of Cleveland-Marshall College of Law] and myself, we were communicating about modest ways that we might collaborate,” Peters said. “I think that any smart and responsible administrators in higher education these days are looking for ways that they can productively collaborate with their counterparts at other schools.  But in talking about those kinds of things, you know, the conversation just kind of led naturally to the possibility of something more ambitious.”

Harlan Sands, president of Cleveland State University, touted “the opportunity to work together on something truly special and unique.”

“Our collective ability to meet the changing needs and expectations of our legal and business communities in Northeast Ohio is greater if we work together,” Sands said in a press release.

The joint exploratory working group, with Peters and Fisher as co-charimen, will give recommendations to both university presidents later this fall. If approved by the schools, the plan would go to the American Bar Association and the state for final approval in 2021.

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