by Richard Prior
Florida Coastal School of Law will continue to thrive even as the economy shakes other institutions out of the system, the chancellor said Wednesday.
The reason is as effective as it is simple, Donald Lively said. The school provides law firms with graduates who can hit the ground running.
“One of the realities of the world (is) law firms want practice-ready lawyers,” he said. “The feedback I get from judges and employers, both in the public and private sector is, ‘We can’t believe how well prepared your students are. We can’t believe they’re actually able to do things the first day they come and work for us.’
“That is what has put this school into the position it’s gotten into very early.”
Lively was the main speaker at a Meet & Greet attended by FCSL students, members of the judiciary, the Jacksonville Bar Association and local law firms. As many as 40 students and three dozen attorneys made reservations for the event, held at The University Club in the SouthTrust Building.
The law school may be only eight years old, but, at 75 percent, its Florida Bar scores are already on a par with more established institutions, he said.
“If you look at similarly situated schools, at this stage of their development , those numbers are extremely impressive,” said Lively.
Establishing FCSL was “an experiment,” he added, “an experiment that is well-known in the circles of legal education today.”
The reason for that success, he continued, is that Florida Coastal “has a market orientation that is unique in legal education, an understanding that there were needs in legal education.
“We understood there’s a disconnect between law schools and legal professionals. That’s a door that was open for us, and we walked through.”
The numbers aren’t in yet, but the expectation is that FCSL will have the “No. 2 or No. 3 academic profile among Florida schools,” Lively said.
National magazines rank the racially and culturally diverse school in the “very good value” category. It is already “a valued resource” in the community.
The profile of the “precocious” school” is “very impressive,” he said. It will continue to improve because it has “enormous upward mobility.”
“What is going to take us to the second tier [of law schools] is the ability to be smart, swift and nimble,” said Lively. “It is the continuing ability to read the market; understanding where the legal profession is headed and having that translated to our programs.
“People understand the school has been about something; it is a different model. It’s becoming an institution of choice; it’s going to be an institution of distinction.”
Lively said he hoped local firms would establish a relationship with the school “that is consistent with the nature of the institution: innovative, different and exciting.
“When most law schools ask to establish a relationship, they’re going to ask for a donation somewhere along the way. We’ll never ask you for a penny. We will ask you to share your views with us, explore market opportunities with us.
“I want us to be characterized as a front-wave institution — opening new doors, capitalizing on new opportunities, sharing those opportunities and having the enterprise orientation.
“We want you to hire our students. They’re cost-efficient hires. You don’t have to put that much into their training. We do most of that.”
Although the luncheon was set up purely as a social event, as many as five jobs were created: one or two clerkships and several associate positions at local firms.
“They told us that was because of the event,” said Associate Dean Eric Smith. “They were so impressed with the students, that’s what they’re going to do.
“We’re just thrilled to death.”