Plans to create a law school at Mills have begun, although no time frame has been placed on the approval process.
The idea for the law school, which arose from a 1997 summit of female judges, professors, students, and practitioners of law, is beginning to take shape in a variety of forms thanks to professor Laurie Zimet’s hard work and planning.
“It’s been bubbling for a while now and I think the president and the board are on it,” said Zimet.
While the school cannot be single sex due to federal regulations on graduate programs, it may still be marketed as a predominately women’s law school or as a law school that has women at the center of its curriculum.
“It’s very clear that there’s excitement and belief that we could use a cutting edge law school,” said Zimet.
There are a number of possibilities for the formation of the school. The major model in the works involves creating a program that consists of three years of undergraduate work and three of graduate, a 3+3 degree rather than the standard 4+3.
A two-year program is almost out of the question, according to Zimet.
“No matter what form it takes it’s going to tap the strengths of Mills as a liberal arts college,” she said.
The law school fits perfectly with the college’s Strategic Plan, according to Mills College President Janet Holmgren.
“One of the goals with our strategic plan is to develop graduate programs that reinforce our values as an institution,” she said.
According to Zimet, the program will not train the law sharks of the future, but rather produce cutting edge thinkers who are taught to prevent problems. She also said that issues pertinent to social justice work, women and communities of diversity will hopefully be addressed in the curriculum.
Holmgren expects a vote from the Board of Trustees next fall, as the feasibility study will be debated in its October meetings.
But no plans have been cemented yet, according to Zimet and professor Marianne Sheldon, head of Graduate Studies.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea, but it’s obviously still in the exploratory stage,” said Sheldon.
“We are at this point doing a study to determine whether or not it would be feasible for Mills College to pursue this opportunity,” said Ramon Torrecilha, Vice President for Institutional Advancement.
The feasibility study is funded by a gift that the college received last year, according to Holmgren.
The process of creating a law school is more difficult than that of creating a graduate program such as the MBA, due to the nature of accreditation laws, which delineate guidelines for law schools.
Even after a school is accredited to issue law degrees, the certificate is provisional, and the school must be re-evaluated under strict standards.
Zimet has constructed a draft for future planning committees, and intends to send it to law school deans around the country to insure a smooth process of approval.
The process of creating is well on its way, as she looks forward to bringing the right people together for contribution.
“I think it could be magic,” she said.