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Jax Daily Record Monday, Feb. 26, 201806:30 AM EST

Lamping drops hint: ‘JU’ and ‘law school’

University president says a legal program “would be premier.”

Jacksonville Jaguars President Mark Lamping was telling real estate brokers Jan. 25 about the master plan designs to lure’s second headquarters when more Downtown possibilities emerged.

“We focused on a lot of things other than just office space and the hotel rooms, which came with their specs,” Lamping said of the design, shown in a video released Dec. 14 by the JAXUSA Partnership economic development division of JAX Chamber.

“Where do you put a major health care, wellness center? Where do you put those things that the workforce that they’re bringing in are going to want to do as it relates to continued personal development?” he asked.

“So things like moving the engineering school of the University of North Florida from its current campus (to) Downtown. Working with JU if they have a law school, moving that Downtown,” he said.

First, UNF.

UNF said a decision to move the engineering school Downtown would be up to the new president. The board of trustees last week chose David Szymanski, a University of Cincinnati dean, as president-elect. Szymanski said he had no immediate information about a Downtown plan of action.

Second, a Jacksonville University law school?

That would be a new — and big — deal.

Tim Cost

“It’s a natural conversation,” JU President Tim Cost said during an interview Feb. 7, but it’s not one that has risen to the level of action.

He considers it a natural conversation because JU, a private liberal arts and science university, has been asked by community and industry leaders whether it would consider a medical or dental or veterinary school, considering its concentration in health sciences. A law school is part of that line of thinking.

The law school consideration comes from two sources, Cost said.

One, the private, for-profit, 22-year-old Florida Coastal School of Law is facing pressures because of its students’ Bar exam passage rate compared with other law schools.

The American Bar Association notified Florida Coastal in October that it is not in compliance with admission standards, specifically that a law school shall not admit applicants who do not appear capable of satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the Bar. 

The ABA asked Florida Coastal to submit a report about its compliance with the standards and to appear before the Accreditation Committee when it convenes March 15-17 in Williamsburg, Virginia.

The school was founded in 1996.

“When I came to town, Florida Coastal of Law was in a different part its lifecycle,” said Cost, who became JU president in 2013.

“Would JU ever think about that?” he said he was asked regarding a law school.

Second, JU infuses law into its courses, including at its Public Policy Institute, which is led by former city General Counsel and Assistant State Attorney Rick Mullaney.

“For a school like ours to consider this seriously, we need to consider our role,” Cost said. “JU has dozens of graduates over the years who have gone on to law school successfully, including many who are now judges.”

He said legal studies would be much more integrated in what JU teaches, such as business, policy, economics and health, and a law program could provide a pathway for students in law.

“We would be smaller. We would be premier,” he said.

Cost acknowledged that moving or creating more JU programs Downtown would fit within its mission to bring more students and vitality into the core city.

JU leased the 18th floor of SunTrust Tower last year and opened a Downtown campus for students in the Davis College of Business, Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences and the Nathan M. Bisk Center for Professional Studies.

This year, the school’s executive MBA program will begin holding classes at the Downtown campus.

“This has a similar quality,” Cost said.

JU is completing its $120 million Aspire capital campaign. Cost expects to provide a “Snapshot of the Future” later this year.

That, he said, would be natural place to talk about plans like a law program.

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