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February 25, 2019

Committee to consider long-term direction of Maine Law

Courtesy / University of Maine School of Law The University of Maine School of Law in Portland. This afternoon a newly created committee will meet to begin a review of the law school's future direction and services in the context of the "One University" initiative.

The University of Maine System Board of Trustees has formed a committee to consider the direction of 21st century legal education and conduct a “one university” assessment of Maine Law operations and potential for program enhancements.

The committee’s first meeting will take place today at 1:15 p.m., in Room 216 of Abromson Hall on the Portland campus of the University of Southern Maine.

The Committee to Advise on the Future Direction of the Law School comprises legal community experts and stakeholders from the University of Maine School of Law, according to a Feb. 22 news release.

The formation of the committee follows the adoption of a new set of strategic priorities for the system and will help shape the search for a new law school dean.

Maine Law’s current dean, Danielle Conway, is stepping down July 1 to become dean of Penn State's Dickinson School of Law.

University of Southern Maine President Glenn Cummings announced earlier this month that Dmitry Bam, the University of Maine School of Law's associate dean, has been selected as the law school's interim dean.

The committee will also consider innovations to take advantage of new resources and partnerships available through the Maine Center for Graduate and Professional Studies. Opportunities to leverage the expanding capacity of greater Portland and the system’s universities, particularly through the Maine Center, to attract talent and capital will also be among the topics for consideration.

The committee will be co-chaired by two graduates of Maine Law. Deirdre Smith is a professor of law at the University of Maine School of Law and director of the Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic. Kurt Adams is president and CEO of Summit Utilities and is a former University of Maine System trustee. The committee will engage with faculty, the legal community, students and other stakeholders through an open meeting process to consider future opportunities in legal education. This analysis will also examine the changing market for legal services, declining demand for legal education, and Maine’s own demographic challenges.

“Maine Law is a small but dynamic institution with an outsized-impact on the State of Maine, training future lawyers and leaders throughout the public and private sectors,” Smith said in the release.

The committee is charged with delivering its report at the board’s July 2019 meeting.

“Legal education has to adapt to innovations in the delivery of legal services, changes in the profession, and the evolving expectations of students,” James Erwin, chair of the University of Maine System Board of Trustees, said in the release. “We must create educational options that meet the demands of non-traditional students and the needs of employers. Improving access to legal services in Maine’s rural communities must also be a priority. The legal community leaders and law school stakeholders serving on the committee will be advising the board on issues that will help set the future direction of legal education and services in Maine.”

The committee will also conduct a review of the law school in the context of the One University initiative, an ongoing effort to organize and improve operations such that all university resources are aligned in focused support for all Maine learners, businesses, and communities. The board adopted a "declaration of strategic priorities" last December to sustain and expand that work and to establish a cost-effective continuum of public education that provides lifelong access to flexible, relevant 21st century learning.

Another focus of the committee’s review will be new opportunities for partnership and innovation within the Maine Center for Graduate and Professional Studies programs. The Maine Center consortium brings together graduate and executive education programs in law, business, and public policy tailored to workforce needs.

“The One University initiative seeks to improve operations, leverage resources, and align outcomes across the enterprise in support of our students and the citizens of Maine,” James Page, chancellor of the University of Maine System, said in the release. “This is an opportune time to consider how operational improvements and partnerships can expand access to the expertise and support Maine professional, business, and community leaders need from the University of Maine School of Law.”

The Committee to Advise on the Future Direction of the Law School was chartered by Page acting on behalf of the board of trustees. An ad hoc committee to the board, the panel will conduct its work publicly.

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