Dean of IU's Indianapolis law school hopes to end campus confusion

May 15, 2010

If you think the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis is a branch of the Maurer School of Law at the IU campus in Bloomington, or that it’s IUPUI’s law school, you’re forgiven. Just about everyone does.

But it’s neither. It’s a separate school—though still under the Indiana University umbrella.

The burden of forging a separate identity falls to the dean of IU School of Law-Indianapolis, Gary Roberts.

Roberts talked about the struggle in an interview with IBJ. The following is an edited version of that e-mail conversation.

IBJ: Do outsiders confuse the Indianapolis law school with the one in Bloomington, and to what extent does the confusion hurt the Indianapolis school?

Roberts: Yes. There is a great deal of confusion in the minds of many people, and not just outsiders. Faculty and alumni of one or the other schools are often referred to as being associated with the wrong one—or simply with the IU School of Law, which leaves people thinking there is only one. Mail is often misdelivered. Students often apply to the wrong admissions office. The media often mix the two schools up. I am sure Dean [Lauren] Robel at the Maurer School would agree when I say that this confusion significantly hurts and dilutes the brand of both schools, especially outside the state of Indiana.

IBJ: Anything you’re doing to distinguish the two schools?

Gary Roberts Gary Roberts, dean of the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis, says many people confuse his school and the Indiana University Maurer School of Law. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Roberts: The two IU law schools have quite distinct cultures and personalities as a result of their very different locations, histories, traditions, policies and demographics. So there is no need for the schools to embark on a program designed to distinguish themselves substantively from one another.

It would be great if we could figure out a way to distinguish the brands of the two schools, but branding regulations set by the IU board of trustees limits our flexibility in this regard. So we are really not doing much of anything deliberately in order to distinguish the two schools, either substantively or in branding, other than calling to everyone’s attention that over half the legal talent and much of the leadership in Indiana comes out of our law school in Indianapolis, so in effect the Indianapolis law school is Indiana’s law school.

IBJ: Are there differences in funding and resources?

Roberts: There are significant differences in funding and resources between the two IU law schools. The Maurer School has substantially more revenue from every major source.

I should emphasize, however, that compared to other quality law schools around the country, neither IU law school is particularly well-funded. But it is especially crucial to the people of the state of Indiana that the Indianapolis law school significantly increase its revenues if it is to continue as a quality law school, which produces over half the legal professionals for the state.

IBJ: How does Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis stack up against the Maurer School of Law in Bloomington?

LegalRoberts: I believe that both law schools offer their students an excellent legal education, and the two schools’ similar bar passage rates, similar post-graduation employment rates, and the great success that most graduates of both schools enjoy all bear this out. The Maurer School is more highly ranked than the Indianapolis law school in some popular ranking systems like U.S. News, although some ranking systems, like Super Lawyers magazine this past year, put the Indianapolis law school higher.

But these rankings invariably are driven by arbitrary factors that often turn largely on the size of a school’s budget, where the Maurer School has an advantage. However, these rankings fail to account for important assets and opportunities unrelated to a school’s wealth.

For example, because of its location in the center of Indiana’s political, business and cultural hub in downtown Indianapolis, the Indianapolis law school offers students tremendous educational experiences from the many courses taught by outstanding adjunct faculty, from dozens of externships, from numerous live client clinics, from frequent outside speakers and programs, from part-time employment, and from the connections and relationships that grow out of all of these opportunities.

So I would say in short that, while Indiana University’s two law schools have very different personalities and cultures, they are both excellent and provide their students with an outstanding legal education.

IBJ: You scored a nice coup by getting Chief Justice John Roberts on campus last month. Did anything he say seem particularly interesting?

Roberts: Chief Justice Roberts didn’t say anything particularly surprising or fascinating, but his visit was a great event for our school. It was a great opportunity for many important alumni and other local and university leaders to return to the school for an exciting event, and it was a highly visible symbol of the fact that we have a first-rate law school that operates at the same level of excellence and prominence as other top-flight public law schools.•


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