Jacksonville University plans law school downtown. City kicks in $5 million.
A new law school is coming to downtown Jacksonville.
Jacksonville University, a private institution, is opening a college of law in the VyStar Tower with a $5 million investment from the city.
City and university leaders announced the school Monday, characterizing it as a spark for downtown and an effort to fill a shortage of lawyers in Florida.
The JU College of Law will be Florida's first new law school in more than two decades and steps into the educational gap in the First Coast left by the closure of the state's former newest law school, the Florida Coastal School of Law.
FCSL lost accreditation last year and ended classes after the summer semester.
JU's law program is already accepting students for fall semester and aims to enroll 20 to 30 students despite not yet being accredited. JU President Tim Cost said the school plans to apply for accreditation during spring 2023 when the initial batch of students are halfway through their first year, with the goal of being approved before their graduation.
The school hopes to have 150 students enrolled in the law program by fall 2024.
The $5 million in public funds will be in the form of grants and a forgivable loan, with the city's investment going toward acquiring space and equipment for the school's launch.
"Too often our young talent leave to pursue opportunities elsewhere, and often they don't return," Mayor Lenny Curry said, explaining the city's commitment of millions to the private university. "One of the most important resources Jacksonville has is its pool of smart young talent."
Curry said full enrollment will bring hundreds of students and employees downtown and help the local economy flourish, while also satisfying a need for affordable legal expertise in the city, something also touted by local indigent legal services Legal Aid and Three Rivers.
With legal jobs forecast to grow statewide, individuals with a juris doctor are in increasing demand, the university said in a news release.
Florida is the third most populous state in the U.S. but is ranked 24th in lawyers per capita. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are roughly 1.5 jobs for every lawyer in the state.
All applicants will be considered for merit scholarships, up to $14,400 per year, based on their transcripts from previous institutions and LSAT scores, the test required for admission. Tuition will run $36,000 annually. No additional application is needed to be considered for a merit scholarship.
Investing in the law school is also a matter of prestige, according to the mayor. Jacksonville is the largest city in America without a law school.