CSU to Accept Fewer Law Students

Barb Galbincea
Plain Dealer Reporter

The faculty of Cleveland State University's law school has mapped out a five-year plan to raise academic standards and increase the number of students who pass the state bar exam to become attorneys.

"Even though this comes up in the context of the bar exam, it's a much more transformative kind of effort," said Steven Steinglass, dean of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

Last June, university trustees asked the law school to develop a plan that would put CSU among the top third of the state's nine law schools in terms of passing the test, instead of closer to the bottom.

Patricia Falk, a law professor who headed the faculty committee, said the panel looked at a number of factors affecting passage rates before developing a multi-pronged approach to address the problem.

Among the committee's conclusions is that the size of entering classes may have to be at least temporarily shrunk to concentrate on attracting better students. Falk said CSU had the largest 2003 entering class (278) of the nine law schools, meaning resources are spread more thinly.

The new plan suggests a gradual downsizing, limiting 2004-2005 enrollment to 250 and reducing that by 10 students a year to 200 by 2009-10. However, Falk said that with more high-performing students, the reduction might not have to be that sharp.

A key part of the plan is to increase scholarships for top prospects - both by reallocating money and raising more. "We do not want other law schools to 'buy' students we ought to be seeking," said Steinglass.

The law school also intends to beef up recruiting by adding a second professional in the admissions office and to create a position for a full-time bar exam coordinator.

Steinglass said the law school remains committed to the part-time program it began offering in 1897 and to a diverse student body. "There is no inconsistency between quality and opportunity," he said. "We are already a high-quality law school and making it stronger."

Susan Becker, a professor who served on the faculty committee, said another factor the group considered was giving students earlier feedback on how they were faring in school, either to help them make the cut or to weed out the weakest.

Falk said her committee also evaluated the curriculum and teaching strategies. The new plan calls for continual monitoring, with an in-depth evaluation at the end of three years.