The College of Law will be the newest academic addition to Belmont, bringing another professional degree to the university’s growing list of programs.
The next step toward the law school came with a groundbreaking ceremony at the site – the corner of 15th and Acklen avenues – and the announcement that it will be called the Randall and Sadie Baskin Center.
“This is the single largest commitment that I have ever made in my life,” said Randall Baskin, Brentwood-based founder of the Continental Life Insurance Co. He and his wife are longtime friends of Belmont, and Randall Baskin has served on the board of trustees.
The Baskins provided a $7-million leadership grant that will go toward the program and the building, which is expected to cost $32 million and will open in fall 2012. The first students will begin in Fall 2011 and will use other classrooms at Belmont while the Baskin Center is completed. Projections are for the school to have 100 students to start in 2011. Students will be added each year to reach a capacity of about 350.
“They successfully will be creating a new law school in this state for the first time in many, many years,” Nashville Mayor Karl Dean said at the groundbreaking ceremony. “It is a very positive step for Nashville.”
The city is also home to Vanderbilt University Law School, established in 1874, and Nashville School of Law, established in 1911.
For the moment though, the school will not try to compete with other law schools. “Being a new school, we’ll have to work our way up the system,” Belmont College of Law Dean Jeffrey Kinsler said.
“Nashville was a big draw for the law school because of a better lifestyle than bigger, crowded cities,” Kinsler said. “The Christian mission [of Belmont] has also been a plus.”
The law school’s outreach for diversity shows 20 percent racial and ethnic minorities in admissions to date. Current admissions data also shows that 60 percent are female. Kinsler said he also expects significant faculty diversity.
“We don’t typically get international students but we will have American diversity,” he said.
Kinsler said he’s confident in demographic studies that indicate that more lawyers will be needed in Tennessee. “The law school was designed to pick up the need now.”
To start, the law school will have a three-year program focusing on skills, practice, professionalism and ethics.
“We plan to offer some concentrations that complements Belmont and Nashville, mainly entertainment and music business law,” Kinsler said.
The school will also have its own placement department, and it is already building relationships with law firms.
“If anybody can handle legal education right, it’s probably Belmont,” said Rep. Jim Cooper, who represents the 5th District of Tennessee in Congress.