Thursday, August 26, 2010

The beginning of the end?

The University of Idaho announced that they received a $1 million grant from the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation, to help start a U of I Law School in Boise. In the near future, the third year can be taken in Boise at classes held in the Idaho Water Center, but apparently they want to work toward a full three year program here.

The plan is to eventually be housed in a remodeled Ada County Courthouse, and to be co-located with the Idaho Supreme Court Library. They still need to raise another $6 million to achieve that dream.

I dunno about all this, though I'm not sure the U of I has much choice. If they don't get a Boise presence, the new Concordia Law School is going to siphon off a bunch of their students. And if they do get a three year Boise program, it will pull students from the Moscow campus. Either way, it's difficult to see how the Moscow law school stays viable, or at least, stays in anything like its current configuration. This will be interesting to watch.

The other part of this story that I really don't get is the law library issue. Really? A state law library? For what purpose? The Supremes will still be blocks away, and they don't go to the library anyway. They, like more and more lawyers, use Westlaw or Lexis for legal research. It really seems like the law library is an unnecessary expense that, if it accomplishes any purpose, subsidizes lawyers. To give you an idea of its usefulness, its hours are Monday - Friday, 10 AM to 4 PM.

If the library has some archival function, why not shift that over the the State Historical Society? The state is casting around to save money; this seems like an opportunity.

But, I suspect it's sort of a backroom deal. See, one of the key factors in rating a law school is the size of its library. The more books, the higher rating. So, co-locating the law school with the law library will allow the law school to get accreditation easier, and will help it gain credibility (assuming the proper deal between the school and the law library for use of and access to the books).


Tara A. Rowe said...

The necessity of a law library was actually written into the Idaho Constitution. As for why they don't transfer it to the Idaho State Historical Society, I bet that wouldn't go very well given that ISHS has cut back their hours open to the public because of budget cuts. They can't keep their doors open, much less take on big collections like the law library. They have collections there that haven't even been processed. And they receive things as the state repository on a weekly basis that won't see the light of day for years if not decades. They're really not equipped for much more than they're already doing.

Tara A. Rowe said...

Oh, and a point about the law library's usefulness, I'll quote you: "To give you an idea of its usefulness, its hours are Monday - Friday, 10 AM to 4 PM. " The State Historical Society is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 AM to 4 PM. Moving the law library there wouldn't make it any more useful, unfortunately.

alan said...

Well, being open Saturday is a bit more accessible than just M-F, for folks who have to work during the day. I do agree about the ISHS. I was assuming that the funding for the ISLL would be shifted.

Sara E Anderson said...

It's funny how different the "conventional wisdom" seems from up here. Your last post describing UI as basically a vestigal instutution seemed totally crazy to me. From what I hear, there are some technical reasons that the law school can't just pick up and move away from Moscow. Plus, Concordia is really being viewed more skeptically by the law-type people I know than you are. And god help me (especially in my field) if I had to go to BSU to get in-state tuition. Thre's ISU, but I am just never going to live in Pocatello. My spouse is going to finish his JD this winter, and we're likely to head South after that. The national job market for attorneys is miserable, but it's still pretty okay in Idaho. (However, my attempts at finding something for me to do have so far been very unsuccessful.)

alan said...

I think the UI law school is soon to be vestigial. The University itself, no, just won't be the obviously preeminent university it has been up til now. It's just a matter of demographics. Too many folks live down here that would prefer to go to a local school.

Per a comment I got a while back, the State Board of Education won't allow UI to move its law school to Boise, or to open up a 2nd 3-year campus down here. Dean Burnett once said that the Idaho Constituion requires the land grant college to provide legal education, but I couldn't find anywhere where it said that had to be done in Moscow, necessarily.

Concordia being viewed skeptically; are you talking to anyone who hasn't been to or isn't going to UI? Granted it's not easy to get a law school off the ground, but it's doable.