in Houston, Texas
Dallas law school tentatively approved, not funded: DMN
Thursday, May 14, 2009, 12:21PM CST
By Matt Pulle
Dallas gets its law school, but not the money to pay for it.

The Texas House has tentatively approved Rep. Dan Branch's bill to create a new publicly-funded law school in downtown Dallas--one of the local delegation's top priorities this session.

There's one caveat. The Dallas Morning News' Emily Ramshaw explains:

Budget woes mean funding for the law school remains uncertain, at least for the next two years. At that point, officials could come back to the Legislature again for funding, or seek tuition revenue bonds instead. But for now, the budget the Legislature is poised to approve does not include the $40 million needed to establish the school.

If this is a somewhat modest victory for Branch and Sen. Royce West, who sponsored the companion bill, it's still a victory. The Dallas political and business establishment has pushed for a publicly-funded law school for decades, and the only thing that blocked them was a state legislature dominated by rural interests. But with the ascension of new House Speaker Joe Straus, an old friend of Branch, Dallas at least got its long-running wish approved.

Now they just have to figure out how to pay for it.

In February, we reported how state experts said that "there was no urgent need" for a new law school in Dallas--and if any region needed one, South Texas did. That last point didn't fall on deaf ears. On Wednesday lawmakers added an amendment to Branch's bill that would study how to bring a public school of law to the region.

The Dallas business and law communities will herald the likely passage of Branch's bill--and it will certainly cap the city's efforts to revitalize downtown. But with a bad economy coupled with a legal profession that is not as vibrant as it used to be, Hugh Rice Kelly, the corporate counsel for Texans for Lawsuit Reform, thinks it's bad policy to jump start a new school of law.

“The notion that you have to have a law school in every city: that’s pork-barrel spending and local pride,” Kelly told Texas Watchdog a few months ago. “America needs fewer law schools, not more. The graduates of existing law schools increasingly cannot obtain employment as lawyers, and the job market today is being flooded with lawyers who are being laid off."
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