Florida A&M University's College of Law Will Enroll First Class in August; Dean Says Law School May Find Its Niche in Sports, Entertainment Law, and Commitment to Public Service. (Noteworthy News: The Latest News from across the Country)

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ORLANDO, FLA.

Florida A&M University's College of Law in August is premiering its first incoming class since 1968, when the institution was closed down by the state. FAMU College of Law was closed one year after Florida State University's College of Law opened in 1967 (see Black Issues, Dec. 7, 2000). Percy R. Luney Jr., dean of FAMU College of Law, sees the closing of the law school in 1968 as an act of racial discrimination because FSU's law school was a majority White school. "The books were taken from FAMU College and given to Florida State's law school on the last day of final examinations," Luney says.

But while questions surrounding the law school's closing remain after more than 30 years, FAMU is starting fresh with its new law school located in downtown Orlando.

Funding, faculty and achieving accreditation all will influence the future of the law school and its reputation.

Accreditation, which is provided by the American Bar Association (ABA), is a stamp of approval and certification to law programs across the United States. The law school can apply for accreditation at the end of its second year, but in the meantime, Luney doesn't see the lack of accreditation as a big problem for the law school, especially in its first year.

"We can apply for accreditation at the end of our second year and we can receive it our third year. I don't see us having a problem receiving accreditation," Luney says.

Lack of accreditation has affected the law school's recruitment tactics.

"Most of our students are from Florida. We did not recruit out-of-state students heavily in our first year because of lack of accreditation and the tuition would be higher for them," says Ruth Witherspoon, associate dean of administration and student services.

The law school has admitted 85 students from 258 applicants, with most of the students coming from Florida and a few coming from other states such as North Carolina, Georgia and New York. Fifty-seven students have expressed interest in enrolling.

Tuition for out-of-state students attending FAMU's law school is considerably lower compared to tuition and fees of other law schools throughout Florida.

Luney says that many times students are so in debt from the high cost of attending law school that taking a position at the district attorney's office, for example, is not financially feasible. …