The ruling is in: Hamline Law school becomes Mitchell Hamline

Hamline announced law program merger with William Mitchell college of Law

Jackie Bussjaeger, Editor in Chief

Last Friday, President Linda Hanson publicly announced that Hamline Law School will soon be merged with William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul. The decision to join forces was largely due to the trend of declining enrollment. Following the pending approval from the American Bar Association, the new school will be in operation in the fall of 2015, with most classes taking place on the William Mitchell campus.

In an address last Friday, President Hanson and School of Law Dean Jean Holloway explained the rationale behind the decision. Hanson said that the possibility of a merger had been discussed for a very long time, but she acknowledged that it is still a large adjustment to make for the students, staff, and faculty of the Law School.

“What does this mean for us as a university? We have a law school, it is the Mitchell Hamline School of Law, it is a different relationship versus how we have operated in the past, but it does not prohibit us—it actually invites us to be able to join with the programs that are offered there, and most importantly to offer an incredible array of programs for our students.”

According to the ABA, law school enrollment is at its lowest point since 1973, so it made sense for the schools to combine forces rather than compete for the dwindling enrollment numbers.

“Through this combination with William Mitchell, we have very complementary programming,” Holloway said. “We have core curriculum that is mandated by the ABA, but beyond that we have a lot of complementary, non-overlapping programs for our institutes.” She went on to explain that the merger increases student access to a larger range of law programs, as well as to the faculty of both institutions.

Holloway  mentioned the extensive teamwork that it took to  actualize the proposition of merging the schools.

“This deal would not have gotten done if it were not for the collaborative work with our new Mitchell partners,” she said. “Everybody on both sides of the highway worked very long hours to make this happen. I think that this really at the core demonstrates why this new combined law school is going to be so successful.”

Some law classes will still be held on the Hamline campus after the merger goes into effect, and the new law school will also retain the use of the moot court room and extensive law library. Mark C. Gordon, currently the president of Defiance College in Ohio, has been selected to serve as president and dean in the new Mitchell Hamline institution.

It has not been confirmed what role Holloway, appointed just last year, will play in this transition.  However, law student and President of the Hamline Student Bar Association (SBA)Alex Beeby said that her career is the last thing that Holloway is concerned about at the moment.

“Her focus right now is not on her career—her concerns are about the students,” he said.

Beeby discussed the effects that the merger is likely to have on current law students, saying that it depends a lot of what year of study a student is in. For those who aren’t graduating this spring, the combined schools will offer expanded course offerings free from the struggle of finding enough students to fill the classes. Beeby said that he has heard many student reactions to the news.

“There’s a lot of apprehension; there had been rumors about it for a while but it’s still shocking news,” he said. “But there people who are optimistic and really interested in taking a part in shaping what the future will look like.”

Beeby said that students are becoming more comfortable with the announcement as they learn the details— for example, they will be able to keep their scholarships and independent class rankings.

“From a student perspective, we’re passionate about Hamline, and we’re processing this change,” he said. “There’s a lot of Piper pride, and the students are really committed to make sure the merged school  continues to represent Hamline. We chose to come to Hamline, and we want to see the essence of it continue into the future.”