Elon University is opening a part-time law school in South End for working professionals to earn their degrees at night.
- The first cohort of 35 students will start in fall 2024.
Why it matters: Charlotte is the largest U.S. city without a law school or a four-year medical school. But soon it will have both, with Elon’s incoming presence and the construction of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in midtown.
- Competing southern cities like Atlanta and Nashville have multiple law schools — but Charlotte hasn’t had one since the Charlotte School of Law shuttered six years ago.
Details: The Elon University School of Law in downtown Greensboro, which opened in 2006, is a two-and-a-half-year program with around 430 students. The Charlotte program will use the same teaching model as Greensboro, but it will take four years. That way, students have the flexibility to work during the day, take care of their families or tend to other obligations.
- Flex programs are popular in metropolitan areas where people are in varying stages of life, said Zak Kramer, dean of Elon University School of Law.
“There are people who may have always wanted to be lawyers, but haven’t had that opportunity,” Kramer said. “Maybe they couldn’t move. It was their work situation, their family situation. It’s also possible that they realized later that they want to go to law school. We are hoping to fill that need that hasn’t been served in a while, but we are going to fill it responsibly.”
Flashback: Charlotte School of Law, a for-profit school, closed in 2017 after its operating license expired and the American Bar Association put it on probation.
- The closure left more than a thousand students with incomplete degrees and burdensome loans.
Zoom in: The following year, 2018, was when Elon started planning an expansion in Charlotte, says Elon’s president Connie Ledoux Book. The pandemic slowed down the process.
- The school will be at the university’s new regional center — nearly 14,000 square feet of classroom and collaboration space at 330 W. Tremont Ave. in South End. That’s the building where British EV maker Arrival used to lease all three floors for its North American HQ.
- “The alums, they just kept saying, ‘This is the spot,'” Book says.
Of note: More than 10% of Elon alums live and work in Charlotte.
Zoom in: The school will prioritize in-person instruction at a time when legal education is trending toward virtual models, Kramer says.
- The class size will be appropriate for the market, Kramer adds, but could grow gradually as demand increases.
- “In 100 years, Elon University will be here in Charlotte,” Book says. “For us, this is a historic day. We absolutely are committed to Charlotte.”
What’s next: Elon School of Law applied to the American Bar Association in July to launch the program in Charlotte. It anticipates approval from the ABA and The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges in November. In the meantime, the school can begin accepting applicants.
- Applications open Oct. 1.