JU Law opens its second year with ‘strong and prudent’ growth
Jacksonville University College of Law Dean Nicholas Allard has a habit of nicknaming incoming law classes.
Last August when the school opened its doors to the inaugural class of 14 first year law students in the VyStar Tower in the heart of the city’s downtown, Allard began calling the seven men and seven women comprising the first class, “The Fabulous 14.”
When JU Law opened as the state’s 12th law school and first in more than 20 years, it received overwhelming support from the Fourth Judicial Circuit and the city of Jacksonville. The result was a new law school founded with a collaborative public-private partnership.
As classes opened in the school’s second year, all 14 members of the first class have returned. They are joined by 26 students who comprise the second class and whom Allard coined, “the 26 ‘mega-picks’ for the Class of ’26.”
“We have as many students as letters in the alphabet, and each one of these students is an ‘alpha-bet,’” Allard said.
JU Law nearly doubled the admission numbers from its first year and Allard says the brand-new school is experiencing steady, prudent growth.
“We had almost 60% of the students accept our offers of admission,” Allard said. “We’re still highly selective and very proud that the quality of this second class is steady.”
Of the 26 mega-picks, four of the incoming 1Ls are double Dolphins, having completed their undergraduate degrees at Jacksonville University. That’s a trend that Allard feels will continue.
“We have our best Dolphin undergraduates who love JU and want to continue their education at their own law school at their own university,” Allard said. “I think it’s an indicator of the continued elevation of Jacksonville and the excellent quality of a full-service university to this community, state, and beyond.”
Allard praised the leadership of JU President Tim Cost who he said has been incredibly helpful in building the law school brick by brick.
“Look at the track record of Jacksonville University [under President Cost’s leadership],” Allard said. “In the last 10 years over 50 new programs and 30 successful accreditations. We are a part of a growing university.”
Aside from the support of President Cost, Allard said the judges and practicing lawyers in Northeast Florida have been incredibly supportive. He emphasized the biggest challenge in the area is the demand for entry level, qualified lawyers exceeds the supply.
“A vibrant growing city like Jacksonville deserves and needs a law school as a part of its infrastructure,” Allard said. “We’re determined to build and help partner with the city as it energizes growth and economic opportunity.”
To that end, all 14 students in last year’s 1L class remained in Jacksonville for their summer internships. Four of those students received judicial internships with the Fourth Circuit.
“Our Northeast Florida bench and bar are incredible,” Allard said. “They are bending over backwards to support us not only in providing jobs but in educating our students.”
To help support the growing student body, JU Law hired four new faculty members earlier this year. These four women will provide the college with the ability to teach both the 1L and 2L curriculum as well as the 3L curriculum next year, he said.
Allard said over the next year, the school is focused on two primary objectives. The first being the pursuit of accreditation.
Last May, the News reported the school had already applied for provisional accreditation and scheduled the earliest possible ABA site visit in October. Allard said JU Law is still on track for that visit.
“We’ve submitted our materials, which I believe are compelling,” Allard said. “We’re preparing diligently for our site visit in October.”
Allard noted he finds himself worried about things that are out of his control regarding the site visit, namely the threat of inclement weather forcing a postponement of the ABA visit.
“Like General Patton in the Battle of the Bulge, I’m going to ask everyone to do a weather prayer so that our site visit isn’t postponed,” Allard said.
The second objective is to finalize moving the school into a new, permanent downtown location. Allard said once the school admits a third class it will outgrow its VyStar Tower location.
Allard didn’t want to spill the beans on the school’s new location, but stressed the permanent location will remain in downtown Jacksonville.
“We’re committed to being downtown in the heart of the city,” Allard said. “Our partnership with the Northeast Florida bench and bar works in part because of our proximity to the Duval County Courthouse.”
To that end, JU Law held its formal convocation ceremony August 10 at the courthouse, where Fourth Circuit Chief Judge Lance Day presided. Judge Day emphasized the school’s mission to produce the highest quality lawyers and people who also represent the highest values of professionalism, ethics, and service to other people.
During the convocation, Allard was introduced as the founding Randall C. Berg, Jr., Dean of the College of Law. The recently endowed position will provide funding for faculty and student research, symposia, scholarships, and other academic initiatives within the law school. Berg was the executive director of the Florida Justice Institute, known for championing causes throughout Florida, focusing his work on the underserved.
“That man represents the finest, highest level of ethics and selfless service in the profession,” Allard said. “His entire life’s work exuded that. It reminds me that our law school is associated with those high standards.”
Allard said this school year would be a year of firsts for both the 1L and 2L students. For the first time the 1L students will have an upper class to mentor them.
“Our first students, who were real pioneers, didn’t have that,” Allard said. “The relationship I expect will be very close.”
Allard mentioned JU Law will also have moot court, mock trial, and the school’s law journal are all in place for the first time.
As he enters his second year, Allard said it’s impossible to curb his enthusiasm.
“This law school is like a relentless wave and I’m just trying to ride it,” Allard said. “From day one [these students] are getting the best possible, forward looking legal education that there is and we’re getting stronger as we go.”