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February 5, 2010 1:16 PM

Psst...Wanna Buy a Law School?

Posted by Brian Baxter

The legal industry has struggled mightily during the recent recession, but Inside Higher Ed reports that times couldn't be better for public universities shopping for private law schools at bargain basement prices.

This week the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education approved a plan for the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth to acquire the ABA unaccredited Southern New England School of Law to create the state's first public law school.

Negotiations are also underway between the University of California at San Diego and California Western School of Law, as are long-running merger discussions between the University of New Hampshire and the Franklin Pierce Law Center.

Many of the proposed mergers are being touted as not costing state taxpayers a penny, Insider Ed reports. It's a contentious topic, given that many state governments are strapped for cash and skeptics dispute the public funding models being bandied about for such mergers.

Supporters of the Southern New England deal note that Massachusetts--a state where public education began--can now offer lower tuition and fee alternatives to in-state students pursuing legal careers. They also point to the success of other partnerships between public institutions and private law schools, such as Penn State University and the Dickinson School of Law.

Despite the fact that industry contraction and job losses have made getting a job at a top firm harder than ever, the number of individuals taking the LSAT in October rose 20 percent compared with October 2008. For those not making the top tier, public-private law school mergers could provide more options in pursuing a legal education.

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