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Once the largest law school in North Carolina, Charlotte School of Law's student population has fallen from 1,500 a decade ago to less than 300 this semester. The for-profit law school, now on probation for failing educational standards and sanctioned with no federal funding, may not survive into the summer. But as one law school dies, another may arise.
The University of North Carolina, the public university system, is considering whether to open a law school in Charlotte. The state system already has law schools at campuses in Chapel Hill and Durham, but had considered opening a law school in Charlotte before the for-profit school was accredited in 2011.
At the time, however, school officials backed away from the plan because of the recession. As job opportunities for law jobs dried up, law school enrollments dropped nationally.
But "given the developments" at Charlotte School of Law, UNC Chancellor Phil Dubois told the Charlotte Observer that he would reopen discussions of a UNC Charlotte law program with school's board of trustees. He said economy stalled the discussions last time, and it will not be easy to do this time.
"Even if we could justify the need and get past the perception in some quarters that the world does not need more lawyers, it is far from clear that the funding case could be made either with the UNC Board of Governors or the General Assembly," he said.
UNCC and Charlotte School of Law had a plan, when they announced a joint MBA/JD program in 2011. The university would offer an MBA and the Charlotte would offer a JD with credits combined in an eight-semester program. Due to low enrollments, however, the program did not materialize.
Meanwhile, Charlotte adjusted to the economic challenges of the time by lowering admission standards. By 2015, the results were showing up in bar pass rates and increased scrutiny by regulators.
The ABA put Charlotte on probation for its accreditation last fall, and the Department of Education disqualified the school from receiving student loans in December.