News at WilmU

Introducing The Wilmington University School of Law

With its inclusive culture, the new law school will prepare students who reflect the communities they serve, promote access to the bar, and make a case for a more diverse legal field.

The Wilmington University School of Law will welcome its first classes in the fall of 2023. 

“The Wilmington University School of Law represents our history of providing career-oriented programs for students from diverse backgrounds and our responsiveness to the needs of the community,” says Wilmington University President Dr. LaVerne Harmon. “It will embrace a culture of inclusiveness, welcoming qualified students who reflect the communities they will serve.” 

Accessibility and Affordability  

Like Wilmington University, the law school will serve qualified students from all walks of life, including traditional- and non-traditional-age students, professionals transitioning from other careers, and multicultural populations. As a student-centered offering, the school will primarily employ faculty who are practicing lawyers skilled at bringing their experiences into their classrooms. 

“Our success is determined by our students’ successes,” says Dr. Harmon. “Our law school instructors will genuinely care about their students and be committed to making a difference in their lives. One of their main functions will be to prepare students for the real world that awaits them as attorneys.”

As dean, Phillip J. Closius, J.D., will utilize his extensive experience in academia and the practice of law to ensure student success. He served as dean and professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law and The University of Toledo College of Law. In addition, Closius taught at Southwestern University School of Law (California), the University of Bridgeport School of Law (Connecticut), and the Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law. He garnered experience in practicing law at several firms before establishing a career in academia and is Of Counsel for Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White, a Maryland- and Washington, D.C.-based firm. A graduate of Columbia Law School, Closius also has published extensively. 

The dean believes that WilmU shares his philosophy of offering equitable and quality education to diverse students. “I have been astounded by how much President Harmon, the Board of Trustees, faculty, and staff care about serving students and providing opportunity. It’s a special place, and I’m happy to be part of it.” 

Buried In Debt

Closius considers the University forward-thinking in its approach to legal education in terms of relevant curriculum and affordable tuition. Most of today’s law students face exorbitant tuition rates for their legal educations. Even when new lawyers land good jobs, their starting salaries are rarely commensurate with their debts.

Many grads are forced to choose alternative career trajectories. “Think about the people who want to specialize in areas of law they find meaningful but can’t because they have to choose specialties that aren’t as rewarding — just to pay off their loans,” says Closius. “That’s why one of the biggest barriers to becoming a lawyer right now is the cost of tuition.” 

“Wilmington University will break the traditional law school tuition paradigm by charging reasonable tuition.” — Phillip Closius

The Wilmington University School of Law will offer highly competitive tuition rates, in addition to scholarships, tuition assistance and comprehensive student services. The cost for full-time students will be $24,000 per year and $18,000 per year for part-time students — the lowest rates of any law school in the region. 

“Wilmington University will break the traditional law school tuition paradigm by charging reasonable tuition,” says Closius. “Full-time students will know from the start that it will cost them, at most, a total of $72,000 to earn a law degree.”

Dean Phillip Closius

Dean Phillip Closius

Passing The Bar

Law students nationwide face many obstacles, includ-ing low passage rates on bar exams. 

“Our curriculum and testing strategies will prepare students to pass the bar everywhere, not just in Delaware,” says Closius. “Our goal is to get students to where they want to be, whether that’s Delaware, Arizona, or anywhere they choose to practice. Of course, we want them involved in Delaware practices and businesses while they’re with us since the University has always been a vibrant contributor to the local community.” 

Law students will be encouraged to work with Delaware lawyers and judges and become involved in pro bono activities statewide, says Closius. “We will also provide students access to mentors and generate a speaker series featuring lawyers practicing in various specialties.”

Law students also need to complete clerkships. In Delaware, they must participate in a 21-week clerkship with a Delaware lawyer. At WilmU, students will be granted academic credit for participating in clerkships in their final year instead of during their first 21 weeks of practice, which is usually the case. Also, students won’t need to do their clerkships while carrying full course loads since clerkships will count for nine of their 15 required credits.

The Wilmington University School of Law will align with the University’s mission of preparing students for success in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Externships will replace traditional clinics so students can have real-world legal experiences. They can understand attorneys’ challenges and have hands-on opportunities to help solve them.

“Our students will work in actual law firms, government agencies, legal aid, or social justice entities,” says Closius. “Externships can also lead to employment. And right now, there is a promising market for law graduates regionally and nationally.” 

The WilmU Way

Since its inception 54 years ago, Wilmington University has fostered an inclusive environment and offered convenience and flexibility to traditional and non-traditional students. The law school will mirror that philosophy.

To accommodate qualified students from all walks of life and in various stages of their careers, the law school will offer three program options starting in the fall of 2023: a full-time, in-person daytime program; a part-time, in-person daytime program; and a part-time evening program. 

In addition to affordability and convenience, our law school will ultimately center on service to students, teaching excellence and access to the legal profession.” — Dr. Laverne Harmon

“The part-time programs are helpful for students who’ve been out of school for a while or work full-time,” says Closius. “When you look at law school GPAs, many students do their worst in the first semester simply because they’re overwhelmed. This allows them an easier transition to law school.”

Graduates will be expected to exhibit an advanced level of applicable knowledge appropriate to their fields of study, and program competencies will include disciplined inquiry, information literacy, and ethical codes and behaviors. The law school will also establish learning outcomes such as competency and understanding of substantive and procedural law, legal analysis and reasoning, legal research, problem-solving, and written and oral communication in the legal context. 

“Students will also learn the logic and deductive reasoning skills that encompass the phrase, ‘Think like a lawyer,’” says Closius. “They will understand the ethical responsibilities of being a practicing attorney and be given an appreciation for the history and meaning of the American legal system, the values of community involvement, social justice, and pro bono service — all essential to a successful legal career.”

Student need always informs initiatives and core values at WilmU. “In addition to affordability and convenience, our law school will ultimately center on service to students, teaching excellence and access to the legal profession,” says President Harmon. “Our faculty will treat students with dignity and respect and help them become creative problem solvers. Students will also be encouraged to embrace lifelong learning since keeping up with technology, techniques and research will be critical to their long-term success.” 

The Wilmington University School of Law will emphasize responsible citizenship and respect for a pluralistic society. “We believe in the value of educational opportunity,” says Dr. Harmon. “It is a privilege to serve students of diverse backgrounds. As future ambassadors of our law school, our alumni will be encouraged to instill a sense of trust in those they serve and be advocates for civic engagement and social justice.” 

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