The opportunity to be a leader and create something new with her teachers was a draw for Leslie Lasher when she decided to attend Elon University in 2006.
"They knew that they needed support of the students in creating the law school," says Lasher, who is a member of the school's inaugural class.
A new school would only be as good as its first graduates, she says. "I feel like I got a lot more individual attention because of that."
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Accreditation uncertainty: Lasher and Lowthert's schools received accreditation in 2008 – two years after they started as law students.
A school may operate without having full accreditation from the ABA, but new students should realize that accreditation is not guaranteed, experts say.
Lowthert encourages prospective students to ask: What are the plans for accreditation? What's the process like? What's the timeline like?
"I think it's important to go to a startup school where the faculty has either been at startups before or they're very familiar with the ABA accreditation requirements," says Alexander.
Limited student support: The first group of students at a law school can't turn to 2Ls or 3Ls – the common names for second- and third-year law students – to ask how a professor typically grades or what exams are like.
"At the time it seemed like a challenge," says Lowthert. But in the long run, not having upperclassmen ended up being a benefit, she says. It forces students to really do their work themselves.
Small network: After graduation though, students may face another hurdle.
"You may kind of feel like there's not an alumni network," Lowthert says. Drexel now focuses on having alumnae mentor current students, she says.
Indiana Tech plans to match each student with a member of the local bar as well as a faculty adviser to expand a student's network in the law community. Lasher says she was in a preceptor program at Elon, which paired her with a member of the local bar.
Lasher enjoyed her experience at Elon, but being a member of the school's first law class put her in a peculiar position: The future of the institution was in the hands of the students.
"There is a lot of pressure on you," she says. "A lot does ride on your bar passage rate."
During job interviews, employers would ask why she chose to be in a school's first class. She used these experiences as opportunities to present herself as a go-getter and a leader. She now works in civil defense and civil litigation at a North Carolina law firm.
Some law students at new schools will have their choice questioned even before school starts. The negative feedback toward Indiana Tech highlights a need for more civility in the law profession, Alexander says. It also serves as a warning to students.
"They have to have a thick skin," he says. "It's unfortunate, but it is part of coming to a new school."
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