By DONNA BALANCIA, TFLJ Contributor
ORLANDO — It took many years for the College of Law at Florida A&M University to receive its accreditation by the American Bar Association, but Dean LeRoy Pernell said his real work is just beginning.
See Dean LeRoy’s video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcdR8tMPloA
Pernell said he and his staff have set goals to achieve in order to continue to improve. Recruiting, bar examination preparation and community outreach, are markers Pernell says the law school must hit.
“We’re building a financially strong foundation and were able to provide a source of legal education for students who want to take advantage of that here,” Pernell said. “But more importantly, were moving towards providing a major resource for the county both in terms of regional interaction with the bench and bar and providing intellectual resources for the community and our nation.”
FAMUs accreditation by the ABA, which it received in July, 2009, marked an important occasion in the schools 61-year history.
The ABA Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar granted full approval to FAMU College of Law during its meeting in Chicago on July 30, 2009.
“I applaud Dean Pernell, his administration, faculty, and students for reaching this milestone,” FAMU President James H. Ammons said at that time.
This achievement speaks volumes about their hard work, dedication and commitment.
Pernell said: “Critics of our school once said that the mountain was too steep to climb. When faced with a mountain you have to cross, the slope is irrelevant. The Councils decision is a reflection of the resilience, perseverance and commitment of the university, our students, faculty and staff to the mission of the FAMU College of Law.”
Centers of Excellence
The College of Laws Center for International Law and Justice is a special program where students are placed in internship situations around the world. Pernell said the experience is immeasurable for aspiring lawyers and it gives the students an opportunity to draw on the experience of humans.
The college is working towards establishing a second area of excellence, which will be the Center for Environmental Justice.
Pernell said the overall strategy includes attracting a broader range of students and expanding outreach. He said the college is working on developing a strong recruiting plan.
Bar exam preparation
Expanding the professional opportunities of FAMU law students is an important goal, Pernell said. Our goal is not to be the best kept secret, he said. Through the colleges internship programs with firms like Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed, as well as in the courthouses, students can gain real-life experience.
“The bench has been very supportive,” Pernell said. “There’s an opportunity for our students to interact. The ability to take advantage of all our area has to offer is important.”
Make sure the law school develops into a national player
The FAMU faculty is committed and Pernell said his staff has a national focus. The College of Law tied for No. 1 in with Texas last year, and this year took the top spot in US News and World Reports ranking of diverse law schools.
As a national player, the College of Law can look to enroll more students. Last year enrollment was 235, this year it was up to about 287, with the number of applications on the rise and interest in the school also up.
The demographics are very encouraging as far as maintaining a leadership role, Pernell said, citing that gender diversity is another area where the College of Law excels, as more than 50 percent of the students are female.
Achievement through skills and practical experience
As the school looks towards re-accreditation in 2012, there is plenty of work to be done and Pernell wants it done right. Pernell said his staff and students aspire to achievement standards that surpass those set by the ABA or any other body.
“Is achievement measured by how many attorneys are employed in the job market? By how many pass the bar exam?” he asked. “We see achievement as the opportunity to educate students who will make a great contribution. Our goal is to get all of our students to go out and make a difference in the community and in our nation. And in that respect, we hope to continue to get an A.”