Supporters of Antioch Law School, including consumer advocate Ralph Nader, attorney Joseph Rauh and the Rev. David Eaton, launched a drive yesterday to raise $2.5 million by late December in an effort to save the school, which university trustees have threatened to close.
Nader said at a news conference that the innovative 13-year-old school is "a symbol of what law schools should be concerned about other than lining the pockets of the rich and the powerful." He urged leading corporate law firms to pledge their financial support to aid the school "where their adversaries will be trained."
Nader said the funds would be used to renovate the old Perry Elementary School at First and M Streets NW, which the District government has agreed to lease to Antioch for 20 years.
The law school currently operates from a main building on 16th Street NW.
But Rauh, a member of the school's local governing board, said Antioch Law might move to a different building, if a satisfactory one is offered, or take steps to become affiliated with a different university.
Last Saturday, the trustees of Antioch University, the main campus of which is in Yellow Springs, Ohio, voted to end financial support for the Washington-based law school and authorized the university president to take steps to close it unless it obtains major new backing soon.
The trustees said they want to concentrate on rebuilding Antioch's main campus, which has its own serious financial and enrollment problems.
American Bar Association evaluators have strongly criticized the law school's classroom facilities and library and said its academic program was of "limited rigor."
Antioch University President Alan E. Guskin said yesterday that law school supporters have until Dec. 7 to make arrangements for new space and the financing to renovate that space, either at the Perry School or elsewhere.
That deadline is one week before the ABA's Council on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar is scheduled to take up the accreditation issue.
If such arrangements aren't made, Guskin said, the school would be phased out during the next two years, with no new first-year students being admitted next fall.