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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Elon University opens up on Charlotte law school plans

Elon University expects to start a law school in Charlotte in August for about 35 students and will start taking applications on Oct. 1.

Elon President Connie Book and Zak Kramer, dean of the university’s law school in Greensboro, offered details on Elon’s plans Tuesday at its new regional center in Charlotte, located almost 100 miles southwest of the university’s main campus in Alamance County.

Elon University’s newly opened regional center at 330 W. Tremont Ave., Charlotte.

Elon has operated a law school in downtown Greensboro since 2006, and it now has more than 400 students. The university hopes to build on the success it experienced with in Greensboro, about 85 miles from Charlotte, but there will be some major differences.

Part-time law school

Law classes in Charlotte will be offered exclusively at night, at least to start, says Kramer, and tailored to people who already have jobs or families. The program will take four years to complete, compared to the 2.5-year law program offered in Greensboro.

“It’s the right model for us in Charlotte,” says Kramer of the differences.

Elon University President Connie Book speaks at a press conference announcing the opening of the Elon University in Charlotte regional center at 330 W. Tremont Avenue in South End, Sept. 19, 2023.

Elon University’s program will be the only in-person law program offered in Charlotte. “We’re here to fill a need that hasn’t been filled in a while,” he says.

Charlotte has not had a law school since the private Charlotte School of Law closed in 2017, a year after the American Bar Association put it on probation amid questions of whether it was following basic admission standards and federal student aid laws.

Currently North Carolina Central University’s School of Law is the only law school in the state to offer a part-time schedule with approval from the American Bar Association.

Cost

Elon’s law school in Charlotte will cost the same as in Greensboro, where total tuition for the two-plus years is approximately $125,000, which does not include living expenses. Annual tuition is more than $50,000, although almost all Elon law students receive some type of financial aid.

Tuition for N.C. Central University School of Law is about $19,100 for in-state students, almost $42,000 for out-of-state students. In comparison, law school tuition at Duke University is $74,000 a year.

Where

Elon will hold classes at its regional education center, which opened this fall on the third floor of a South End neighborhood office building. The 14,000-square-feet on the building’s top floor features classrooms, collaboration areas and breakout spaces. It shares adjacent parking spaces with an apartment complex and commercial space, including Hi-Wire Brewing.

Interior of Elon University’s regional center in Charlotte where it hopes to start a law school in August 2024.

A dozen Elon University students started sports management classes this fall in the Charlotte education center. Those students will also have internships with pro sports teams in Charlotte. In the coming years, the Charlotte regional center will offer finance classes and internships as well as other programs, Book says.

The private university has more than 7,100 students, including almost 800 graduate students. Elon does not plan to open a college for undergraduates in Charlotte, Book says.

Experiences

Classes will begin at first with two faculty who travel from Greensboro to Charlotte to teach, but the classes will eventually be taught by law professors assigned to Charlotte, says Kramer.

Most classes will be taught in-person, and students will be able to take all the classes they need in Charlotte to graduate with a law degree, he says.

Elon University School of Law Dean Zak Kramer speaks at a press conference announcing the opening of the Elon University in Charlotte regional center at 330 W. Tremont Avenue in South End, September 19, 2023.

The Charlotte law program will use the same teaching model as the full-time program in Greensboro. Students will learn by doing, which will include traditional classroom instruction, full-time residency-in-practice, competition and clinics, Kramer says. 

Over the past decade, annual applications for admission to Elon University’s School of Law have increased by nearly 50%, and this year’s class of 173 students is its largest ever.

Kramer says Elon does not have an expectation for applications to the Charlotte school in its first year, but added the population of Charlotte and lack of a nearby law school made it attractive to the university.

Kramer says the law school in Charlotte will connect with the local legal community by offering continuing legal education courses and other programs.

Why Charlotte

Elon has been looking at creating a law school in Charlotte since 2018, says Book, but was delayed in moving forward by the pandemic.

“Charlotte is a city that is booming and dynamic,” says Book.

Elon University has operated other regional education centers in Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C., in some cases for more than a decade, says Book. Charlotte’s demographics make it an attractive city to expand, she says.

Charlotte is second to New York City for Elon grads to start careers, Book says, adding thousands of Elon graduates call Charlotte home. More than 150 Elon School of Law graduates live in the Charlotte area, Kramer added.

What’s next

Elon still needs accreditation from the American Bar Association and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Elon expects to hear from the ABA in November, Kramer says.

North Carolina does not have a law school west of Wake Forest University School of Law in Winston-Salem. Other law schools in North Carolina are run by Campbell University, Duke University, N.C. Central University and UNC Chapel Hill. High Point University plans to open its law school on its campus in August 2024.

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