Saturday, March 31, 2018
Savannah Law School is closing, and that's not good
In October of 2013, I went down to Savannah Law School to give the Justice Hunstein lecture there. It was a new school, started by a for-profit company that also ran the pretty mediocre John Marshall Law School in Atlanta (not to be confused with the decent John Marshall Law School in Chicago). I didn't know what to expect.
What I found surprised me. It was clear that the faculty there had established a place that had real promise. In a number of good ways, it reminded me of my own school, St. Thomas: They had a gifted and productive faculty that took scholarship seriously, their students were clearly hard working and devoted, and they were in a beautiful place (close to the park pictured above, in the midst of a historic district). Most of all--and also like St. Thomas-- they seemed to have a genuinely supportive and engaged community of students and faculty.
By the time I gave the lecture, I was really fond of the place and the people I had met. I even took a picture of the audience, so that I could remember them:
To begin the lecture, I told them that in a way, I was from their future-- a school that had also started from scratch, gotten traction, and was now solidly established and doing great things in a community that needed it.
It turns out I was wrong.
The parent of Savannah Law, John Marshall, has decided to sell the beautiful building and close the school. They are facing two lawsuits-- one of which claims that their plan all along was to finance the building through student loans until the market was right to flip the building. Ouch.
There is a special sadness to it all, too. Savannah is a fascinating and unique city, and (unlike the Twin Cities), this is their own law school. A future where a local, practical school trains the prosecutors and defense attorneys for the local bar is not going to be possible unless the school is saved. I think that there are too many law schools in the United States, but that does not mean that the small, local ones should uniformly be the ones to fail-- they provide some things big state schools cannot. One of those things is a sense of community that is harder in a bigger, more transitory place. Another is an intimate connection to where they sit, since they don't pretend to belong to the entire nation.
When I was there, Savannah Law felt like a place with a soul. There are too few of those places left, and it is worth fighting for them.
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That is terrible. Savannah seems to breed colleges whose founders start something good but push the envelope of legality, i.e. SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design, where I worked a long time ago).Post a Comment
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