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Delaware State president weighs Dover law school
State bar association head says group would aid founding if plan takes off

By PATRICK JACKSON AND SEAN O'SULLIVAN
Dover Bureau reporters
The News Journal

06/22/2004

Delaware State University President Allen L. Sessoms is exploring the idea of starting a law school in Dover.

Sessoms said he was approached by local officials who said Delaware has one of the best court systems in the country and should have a law school to match. He did not name the officials.

A "very informal" working group is looking at the plan and will determine whether a full feasibility study should be done in six to eight months, Sessoms said.

"Law schools are very expensive," he said, adding it could cost up to $50 million. "We would want to make sure we had the money in hand first."

Claibourne D. Smith, chairman of the university's board of trustees, said the idea is preliminary and one of a number of options being considered.

"There are no final decisions or even concrete decisions made that we can talk about at the moment," he said.

Sessoms said the state's only law school, the Widener University School of Law, is a branch campus of an out-of-state school. Widener is based in Chester, Pa.

Widener has about 1,100 law students in Delaware on its 40-acre campus on U.S. 202 in Brandywine Hundred. The school was founded in 1971 as the Delaware Law School and became a part of Widener in 1975, according to Widener. Widener officials did not return phone calls for comment Monday.

Delaware State Bar Association President Charles McDowell said the state association would work with Sessoms if he decided to pursue the plan.

"Dr. Sessoms has some ambitious plans for the university," he said. "We'd certainly be willing to help them."

But McDowell said Widener is respected within the state's legal community and Delaware may not need a second law school.

"We're a small state, and a law school at a state university is not necessarily something you'd expect us to have," he said. "We don't have a medical school, either, for the same reason."