Recently, the University of Akron School of Law and Cleveland State University Cleveland-Marshall College of Law have announced the creation of a joint exploratory group to “determine the feasibility, timeline, and key components of investing in a new operating model that would create new synergies and opportunities for legal education.” Essentially, these two Northeastern Ohio public law schools are considering joining forces and “creat[ing] the largest law school in Ohio and one of the largest public law schools in the country.”
According to the University of Akron and Cleveland State University’s joint press release, this would make “it the only law school in the United States to be part of two different urban public research universities.” The creation of this joint venture would benefit students from being able to take a large number of courses at either location and would combine faculty, resources, and clinical opportunities. The University of Akron president Gary Miller stated, “We have an exciting opportunity to think about how we might redesign legal education through a creative partnership of two outstanding law schools. We hope to leverage the great variation in circumstances in the Cleveland-Akron-Canton urban corridor.”
Currently, the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law is ranked #102 for best law schools, according to the esteemed U.S News and World Report. On the other hand, the University of Akron School of Law is ranked #141. When comparing profiles of full-time students attending each program, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law’s entering class of 2017 had a 50th percentile LSAT score of 153, a 50th percentile GPA of 3.39, a class size of 87, and 14% were students of color. The University of Akron School of Law’s entering class of 2019 had a 50th percentile LSAT score of 152, a 50th percentile GPA of 3.45, a class size of 87, and 15% were students of color. It is evident from these statistics that these two law schools are quite comparable and would be complementary when considering that Cleveland-Marshall College of Law offers concentrations in Administrative Advocacy, Litigation, and Transactional law and the University of Akron School of Law offers concentrations in Advocacy and Dispute Resolution, Business Law, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Family Law, Health Law, Intellectual Property Law, International Law, and Wealth Management Law.
This announcement comes at a precipitous time in the midst of a serious financial crisis for the University of Akron and a global pandemic that may negatively impact law school enrollment and the economy. It is important to note that the University of Akron School of Law’s Dean C.J. Peters states that this is unrelated to the economic impacts of coronavirus but rather the result of “communicating about modest ways that we [Peters and Dean Lee Fishers of Cleveland Marshall Law School] might collaborate” and “the possibility of something more ambitious.”
It is still unknown whether or not this joint exploratory group will agree on the merger and if the governing American Bar Association will approve this merger, as well. This would not be the first merger in Cleveland State’s history as in 1946, Cleveland Law School and John Marshall School of Law merged. It is also unknown how this potential collaboration would affect currently enrolled students, what the new name would be, the impact on tuition and financial aid, and the all-important ranking in the US News and World Report.