FIU's upstart law school kicks UM's aristocratic ass

Oh, the difference a decade can make. Eleven years ago, Miami's aspiring lawyers either had to fork over a fortune to attend the University of Miami's carefully manicured campus in Coral Gables or relocate to Gainesville or Tallahassee. There was only one real show in town, and tickets were expensive as hell.

Not anymore. According to bar exam results released last week, the mighty UM law school has fallen — hard. The Hurricanes finished sixth out of 11 Florida schools in terms of the percentage of students passing the test. UM's misery was compounded by the exam's unlikely leader: Florida International University's upstart law school, which was founded in 2000.

As in football — where FIU has left UM in the dust this season — the Golden Panther barristers are on the rise. Nearly 90 percent of FIU students passed the exam, a full 7 percent more than at UM. Hell, the Hurricanes didn't even finish second in the city: that honor went to Nova Southeastern's law school, with 87.4 percent passing the bar. Rumors are that UM law dean Patricia White is livid.

The results wouldn't be so galling if UM didn't cost more than twice as much as FIU. According to UM's website, tuition at the law school is roughly $40,000 per year, compared to just $15,000 for its public school counterpart. The University of Florida, which finished just behind FIU on this year's bar exam, costs slightly more, around $17,000 for a full-time in-state student.

But cheer up, UM 3-Ls — things could be worse. You could be enrolled at Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, where less than half the students passed the bar exam this year. Founded in 1999 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Ave Maria was competing with local rival Michigan for the best bar results in the state, if not the nation, before it was even fully accredited.

Tom Monaghan, the school's conservative Catholic founder and former Domino's Pizza magnate, then decided to uproot the school to Southwest Florida. The results speak for themselves.

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