Law Offices of David G. Arganian, Seattle, WA

Following dean's resignation, Baltimore relents on law school money

A little more than two months after the dean of the University of Baltimore School of Law resigned, complaining that the university was dipping too deeply into revenues generated by the law school, the university has agreed to give some money back.

University of Baltimore President Robert Bogomolny announced on Oct. 13 that the university would increase the law school's operating budget by $1 million annually for the next five years, eventually boosting its operating budget by nearly 25%.

That move came after a university committee reviewed the law school's funding structure, partly in response to a request by the American Bar Association's accreditation committee to account for law school-generated money spent on non-law school activities.

The committee decided to widen the scope of its review, according to its chairman, law professor Michael Meyerson, and it obtained detailed financial information from nine different law schools housed at public universities. It quickly became clear that any head-to-head comparison about the so-called "tax" — the amount of law school-generated money turned over to the larger university — was impossible, Meyerson said. Each school used different definitions and different ways to calculate costs.

"You have the example of the security guard in the law school lobby," he said. "That's not a direct cost to the law school, so how do you account for it? It's the same thing with software and other overhead costs."

Still, there were certain direct costs that the committee could reasonably account for, including tuition and faculty. "We looked at these trends and proxy numbers, and it made sense to increase the budget of the law school," Meyerson said.

He cautioned that the widespread view that most universities impose a tax on law schools that falls between 20% to 25% was harmful to the larger discussion about law school funding. "It requires so much subjectivity as to be meaningless," he said. "It can't be done."

The allocation of law school revenue was a sore spot for former Baltimore law dean Phillip Closius. When he stepped down on July 29, he sent the law school community a detailed letter explaining his concerns about funding. He wrote that the law school retained only 45% of the revenue it generated during the 2010-11 academic year. Bogomolny responded with a letter of his own disputing that figure and putting the tax at less than 14%.

Under the new funding agreement, an estimated 90% of the funds generated by the law school will return to it, Meyerson said. The arrangement ensures that law student tuition will not increase next year. Students were informed by e-mail that the administration would try to minimize future tuition increases.

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