Welcome to the first issue of Sidebars, the newsletter of UNT Dallas College of Law. We’ll keep you up to date with what’s happening at Dallas’ newest – and only – public law school.
Dean Furgeson’s take on law school tuition, the role of lawyers, his legal heroes and more.
W. Royal Furgeson, Jr., is the founding Dean of the UNT Dallas College of Law. In addition to his administrative duties at the College of Law, he will play a lead role in teaching the Practice and Profession of Law. He is the former Senior U.S. District Judge in the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division.
A: A lot of my colleagues asked me why I would step down from the federal bench, especially in these tough economic times with tuition rising and demand for lawyers declining. But the prospect of pioneering a new law school that addresses these issues head-on was too engaging and worthwhile for me to pass up.
“We are a professional school, preparing students with the skills they will need to practice in the real world.”
A: We are going to keep tuition low by rigorously controlling costs. We are starting fresh; we do not have the burden of legacy costs. The cost for libraries, for teachers and for administration is something we can control. We have these advantages as a new school.
A: Lawyers represent people in their most important affairs. Being a lawyer is a unique and rewarding opportunity to help others structure their lives in accordance with the law. It is a high calling.
A: The need to help people live in accordance with the law is not changing. We live in a nation of laws. But the way law is practiced is changing. The practice of tomorrow will be substantially different from the practice of today. We will do our utmost to understand the changes and to alert our students to the opportunities they present.
A: Our goal is to be a teaching law school. We are a professional school, preparing students with the skills they will need to practice in the real world. We are a professional school in the same way a pharmacy school or medical school is. A professional school in the best sense of the term. As much as possible, our students are going to learn law by doing law, in labs, in externships, shoulder to shoulder with real lawyers.
A: James Madison, for one. He was a lawyer, and one of the authors of the Constitution, which was written to create a legal framework for a nation. Abraham Lincoln stands for all that's good in a lawyer. My heroes are also the lawyers who are working in complete anonymity, helping you with your will or divorce, and seeking a fair fee; they are counselors, they are working daily, without fanfare or applause, to help you structure your life in accordance with the law. That’s a noble pursuit.
On September 3, 2013, at UNT Dallas College of Law, we began accepting online applications for our inaugural class, marking a significant milestone in legal education in Dallas and the North Texas region. After 10 years of active planning and 40 years of regional aspiration, UNT Dallas College of Law will begin educating its first class of future lawyers in fall 2014.
We are a new public law school that offers an innovative legal education at a tuition that delivers great value.
The College of Law is located at 1901 Main Street, in the Universities Center of Dallas building, the former Titche-Goettinger department store, built in the 1920s. The building is in the final stages of a $29 million renovation that will not only help it serve as a law school, but will enhance the east side of downtown Dallas. Renovated spaces include student gathering areas, classrooms, a moot courtroom and a Law Library. As we grow, we plan to expand to the Municipal Building, which sits catty corner to the present building. This granite and limestone Beaux Arts structure built in 1914 has served as Dallas’ City Hall and Police Headquarters.
We are a new public law school that offers an excellent legal education at a tuition that delivers great value.
In preparing our students to become practicing lawyers, we combine educational best practices with a unique emphasis on learning by doing, to develop practice-related competencies. Most of our upper level courses include a one-hour lab component focused on applications of the law, such as drafting documents and negotiating. We also take advantage of our downtown Dallas location and connections to local law professionals to give students the chance to work shoulder-to-shoulder with real lawyers in externships and other opportunities.
UNT Dallas College of Law is part of the UNT System, which currently includes three independently accredited schools: UNT (Denton), UNT Health Science Center, and UNT Dallas. Under the legislation authorizing the College of Law, the UNT Dallas College of Law initially is a freestanding professional school administered by the UNT System. In 2015, the UNT Dallas College of Law will become a professional school within UNT Dallas.
We want to keep tomorrow’s lawyers in our region, so that they can serve North Texas for decades to come. The larger Dallas-Fort Worth area is full of opportunity for our graduates, with a population of more than 6 million residents and many diverse communities, as well as the second highest concentration of Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies in the United States. By 2017, our first class will graduate, increasing the benefits of diversity in the legal profession in North Texas, and becoming the source of a deeper pool from which many of our community’s new leaders will emerge.
The sixth floor of the UNT Dallas College of Law is devoted to the Law Library. And Ed Hart, Assistant Professor and Assistant Dean for the Law Library, is devoted to ensuring our students make the most of its extensive digital and print resources.
“In this century, lawyers are information and knowledge professionals,” he observed. “So we need to make sure, now more than ever, that we’re emphasizing research skills, knowledge management and information literacy.”
The Law Library’s print collection includes Southwest Reporters, Texas Statues and core treatises and monographs. The digital collection includes Westlaw, LexisNexis, Bloomberg Law and HeinOnline.
Assistant Dean Hart and Law Library staff will help students navigate and utilize the collections, guiding instruction in advanced legal research and collaborating in designing and delivering many of the one-hour lab modules for our upper-level courses. Law Library staff will also serve students with workshops, one-on-one research guidance, online teaching modules and more.
The Law Library is a completely renovated space, designed to emphasize collaborative work and study rooms and effective access to digital and print information. It also includes ample individual study and research rooms.
Assistant Dean Hart is eager to see the Law Library’s resources utilized. “It’s a fantastic library facility for our law school’s pioneering class,” he said. “We can’t wait to get started.”
Recently, Sidebars met with Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions Valerie D. James, who’s eager to enroll and welcome our inaugural class.
Valerie James: We’ve had intense interest! We plan to enroll one full-time section of about 80 students and one part-time evening division of about 45 students.
VJ: The potential to be good lawyers who will serve their communities. One of our core goals is to widen access to legal education. We want to reach people who, because of cost, location, standardized test scores or other factors, do not currently have realistic access to law school, people who want to go to law school, who will succeed in law school, and who we believe will go on to contribute positively to the profession and the community.
“We want to reach people who, because of cost, location, standardized test scores or other factors, do not currently have realistic access to law school.”
VJ: We are going to keep our tuition as affordable as possible consistent with our educational goals, for one. And we’re the first public law school in Dallas, so talented prospective students who can’t realistically leave Dallas will now have access to a legal education. And we have no minimum LSAT score requirement. Good LSAT scores are important, but we think other things matter, too.
VJ: We take into account all aspects of an applicant’s file. That includes academic record and LSAT scores, but also personal statements, resumes, letters of recommendation, evaluations and an optional interview. We consider an applicant’s background, honors and achievements, service to others, communication skills, talents relevant to the practice of law, hardships overcome, advanced degrees, work experience, leadership and diversity.
VJ: Absolutely. We believe lawyers should be as diverse as the communities they serve. The diversity we promote includes racial and ethnic diversity, as well as other differences, such as age, socio-economic background, educational and professional backgrounds, and military service or law enforcement experience.
VJ: Thanks. It’s very exciting to be putting together our very first class!
Page last modified on April 15, 2014 at 11:45 am.