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June 18, 2018

Florida Law

FAMU Law Gains Credibility

LeRoy Pernell's overhaul of the once-troubled law school leads to full accreditation.

Art Levy | 10/1/2009

FAMU law school dean LeRoy Pernell: “Full accreditation feels very good. What feels best is it gives you the freedom to really move ahead and get some other things done.”
Shortly after LeRoy Pernell became dean of Florida A&M University’s law school in 2008, the American Bar Association’s accreditation committee released a critical report that raised questions about the law school’s long-term viability. Based on interviews and site visits before Pernell officially took over, committee members described a campus rife with faculty dissension and dwindling trust between students and administrators. Making Pernell’s job even harder, the report came as the school faced a make-or-break August 2009 deadline for accreditation.

Before he could focus on accreditation, Pernell, who joined FAMU after 10 years as dean of Northern Illinois University’s law school, had to boost morale at the Orlando campus and instill a sense of confidence that the law school could actually survive.

» Initial Steps: “The first thing I tried to do is make it clear to not only the folks here at the law school but with the central administration as to the direction and vision for the school. There was a lot of reassurance that had to be given to students that this would be an institution that met their needs now and would give them what they needed in the future to practice law. A lot of it was talking, meeting with people, hearing their concerns. I came here having been involved with accrediting law schools in a number of situations, being part of inspection teams, heading inspection teams and coming off 10 years of being dean at another law school. And those things I think gave folks a greater sense of confidence that they could move forward.”

Passing the Bar
Exam results at Florida’s law schools:
Law School Bar Exam
% Passing
Florida International University 27 81.5%
Stetson University 75 80%
Nova Southeastern University 40 72.5%
St. Thomas University 27 70.4%
Florida Coastal University 59 66.1%
Florida State University 40 65%
University of Florida 37 64.9%
University of Miami 36 61.1%
Barry University 22 54.5%
Florida A&M University 44 52.3%
Non-Florida law school grads 377 73.7%
Total 784 70.7%
Source: Florida Board of Bar Examiners, February exam
» Culture Shift: “The situation initially was complicated by the fact that there were detractors. There were people who felt that the school wasn’t going to succeed. We brought in in excess of 16 new teaching positions the subsequent fall and that had a profound impact. ... One of the things that was going on here was a lot people didn’t realize that the challenges that they were facing were challenges that a lot of institutions face. And if you as a faculty and an institution work together, you can do something about it.”

» Raising the Bar: “For accreditation purposes, a 75% passage rate is the expectation by the ABA, but the ABA also looks at a couple of different variations on that. The ABA recognizes that schools have different students and different abilities. They want you to at least be able to show that ultimately you have sufficient members of your graduating class that are members of the Bar, and we met that standard. But I’m optimistic and Pollyannaish enough to shoot for 100%. We brought in at least three or four new legal writing people this past year. We have these two new people in the Bar preparation program coming in. There will be student tutors. Our goal is to give students the opportunity for membership in the Florida Bar earlier, so that they are successful the first time.”

Tags: Politics & Law, Central, Education, Government/Politics & Law

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