Ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrates opening of Jacksonville University College of Law

It’s not the first law school in Jacksonville, but it’s the only one right now

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Thursday afternoon to celebrate the opening of the Jacksonville University College of Law.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Thursday afternoon to celebrate the opening of the Jacksonville University College of Law.

JU President Tim Cost, JU Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Christine Sapienza, Dean of the JU College of Law Nick Allard Esq., Vice Dean of the JU College of Law Margaret Dees Esq., and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry were among those in attendance at the event, which took place at JU’s downtown campus on the 18th floor of the VyStar Tower.

JU, whose main campus is in Arlington, already has several programs in the high-rise building, and leaders believe it’s important for the College of Law to be located downtown because it is within walking distance of City Hall, the public defender’s office, the state attorney’s office and the Duval County Courthouse.

The law school, which was announced in February, has actually been open for three weeks. The first class is only 14 students, who are called “the Fabulous 14.” Lauren Fisher is one of them.

“It feels amazing. Honestly, I know that we get to be basically paving the way for many more students to come,” Fisher said. “I definitely believe that we’re trailblazers, and I’m definitely super excited to have a history here and to be able to basically practice law in basically the area I grew up in.”

She and the other students are all getting some financial aid. Law school isn’t cheap — about $36,000 a year.

Curry was on hand during the ceremony because the city has made a substantial investment in this — $5 million.

“We have ideas pitched to us on any given day to invest in. This is a real talent need in Jacksonville,” Curry said. “JU, under the leadership of Tim Cost, has demonstrated the ability when he has an idea to get it done and to get it done successfully. So when he brought the idea to this idea to me, it was ready to go. It’s a no-brainer. I think it’s much needed. It’s going to be in downtown.”

The dean of the college said this money will pay off in many ways.

“So our graduates are going to be, I’m sure, coming from and serving the legal needs of Jacksonville, which are not only private and commercial, but in the criminal and civil area,” Allard said.

And that’s exactly what Fisher wants to do when she graduates in three years.

“I do want to practice here in the city of Jacksonville, and bring many more changes and many more opportunities to help individuals in need here,” the first-year law student said.

As pointed out during Thursday’s ceremony, it has been a dream of JU’s founders to have a law school. Eighty-eight years later, that dream was realized.

While it’s not the first law school in Jacksonville, right now, it’s the city’s only law school enrolling new students, filling the gap that Florida Coastal School of Law leaves after closing its doors in 2021.

The JU College of Law offers a three-year Juris Doctor degree program that is designed to prepare graduates for the Florida Bar exam. School leaders said a number of times during Thursday’s event that they’re taking applications for the law school for the spring semester and for next year. To apply, visit ju.edu/law.

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Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.