Wednesday, April 15, 2009

ABA Team Observes Improvements During FAMU College of Law Site Visit

More than a month after an accreditation team from the American Bar Association (ABA) visited Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) College of Law, the law school community continues its spirited focus on improvements inside and outside the classroom.

Students, faculty, administrators and staff are still donning green “Destination: Accreditation” T-shirts in recognition of the theme that has come to symbolize a genuine culture change at the law school. What started out as a public awareness campaign in preparation for the ABA site visit has evolved into a long-term, campus-wide commitment to propel the FAMU College of Law to the next level of greatness with academic and administrative enhancements.

The changes – including 16 new faculty members and a new Center for International Law and Justice – were on full display in late February when the site team spent four days observing law school operations. The team of six legal education and university administrators will not determine compliance or non-compliance with the ABA’s Standards for Approval of Law Schools but will report its findings back to the ABA. A final decision on the law school’s application for full accreditation is expected by August.

Based on a wrap-up interview that included FAMU President James H. Ammons, Law School Dean LeRoy Pernell said reaction to recent improvements was generally positive.

“They appeared to be impressed with the progress we’ve made so far,” he said.

First on the team’s agenda was a tour of the campus, where the team noted the building’s technological advantages and witnessed facility upgrades including the FAMU Café, which opened in December 2008, and the FAMU College of Law Bookstore, which opened in January 2009.

The team reviewed University and law school policies while meeting with University officials, including President Ammons, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Cynthia Hughes Harris, Chief Financial Officer Teresa Hardee, Chief Information Officer Robert Seniors, and Vice President for University Relations Carla Willis.

The team also attended a reception hosted by the Orlando Magic, during which they were greeted by a cadre of community supporters including FAMU Board of Trustees Chairman C. William Jennings, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, other elected officials, members of the College of Law’s Board of Visitors, representatives of the law school’s Alumni Council, business leaders, judges and other constituents.

In-between visits to classrooms, where they spoke with law students in the full-time day and part-time evening programs, team members met with administrators to analyze organizational processes and with faculty to review curriculum and scholarship.

The ABA granted the FAMU College of Law provisional approval in August 2004. According to the ABA, a law “school that is provisionally approved is entitled to all the rights of a fully approved law school. Similarly, graduates are entitled to the same recognition afforded graduates of fully approved schools.”

The FAMU College of Law was founded in 1949 on the main campus in Tallahassee. After graduating 57 lawyers, the law school was closed by the state of Florida in 1968. The Florida Legislature voted to reopen the law school in 2000 and Orlando was selected as the location. The reestablished FAMU College of Law opened its doors in 2002 and is now housed in a state-of-the-art facility at 201 Beggs Avenue in downtown Orlando’s Parramore neighborhood.

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