The John Marshall Law School will fold into the University of Illinois at Chicago under a plan approved by trustees at both schools Thursday to create the city’s first public law school.
The first class at the UIC John Marshall Law School is expected to matriculate in the fall of 2019, school officials said.
“The decision to create a public law school marks a historic day for higher education in Chicago,” UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis said in a statement. “It is also a historic day for UIC, which will fill a 50-year gap in its academic offerings as a comprehensive research university.”
UIC approached John Marshall about a merger in 2016, and both sides “determined that the transaction would be financially feasible without requiring any new state funds,” according to a UIC statement.
John Marshall will lease and transfer its four Loop buildings over the next five years “and will fully integrate the law school into UIC after the closing,” the statement said. UIC “will bear no financial obligation for the acquisition.”
John Marshall Dean Darby Dickerson will hold that role through the merger.
“Chicago is the largest city in the U.S. without a public law school. The UIC John Marshall Law School will fill that gap while also enhancing legal services available to the people of Chicago,” Dickerson said in a statement.
The merger still needs accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission and the American Bar Association, as well as approval for a “change of control” from the U.S. Department of Education.
About 1,000 students are currently enrolled at John Marshall, with about 280 starting up this fall. They’ll be considered UIC students when the deal closes, with classes taught jointly by faculty from both schools — roughly 50 from John Marshall. More than 30,000 students are enrolled at UIC.
The new law school will still operate at John Marshall’s current location at State and Jackson.
UIC said the merger will create a more affordable legal education and touted it as a boon to interdisciplinary study in health sciences, engineering, urban planning and public administration.
“When you combine the strengths of the John Marshall Law School and UIC, one plus one is much greater than two,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. “The merger of these two bright lights on Chicago’s scholastic landscape will strengthen education and career opportunities for generations of Chicago students, and strengthen our city’s reputation for world-class academic excellence.”
John Marshall was founded in 1899 and has long held a reputation as the city’s more accessible, working-class law school. It has churned out numerous state and local lawmakers and also counts among its alumni former White House Chief of Staff William Daley, former state Supreme Court Justice Charles E. Freeman and Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans.
“John Marshall has a long tradition of educating future lawyers who dedicate their careers to serving the public,” Evans said in a statement. “This partnership marks the beginning of a new generation of UIC John Marshall lawyers who will put their legal skills to work in all three branches of government and as public-interest lawyers advocating for policies that are fair and just for all.”