The University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law has received more than $1 million that will create a more affordable pathway to a law degree for Pulaski County residents and future law students who want to practice law in the county.
The money is part of the charitable component left over in a $45 million cigarette settlement fund. The charitable distribution ends a 14-year false advertising lawsuit against Marlboro Lights manufacturer Philip Morris USA. The funds will be split evenly between the Dean R. Morley Pulaski County Bar Foundation Scholarship Fund at the Bowen Law School and the Public Interest Litigation Scholarship Program Fund at the University of Arkansas Law School.
UA Little Rock’s donation of $1,091,148 is expected to generate around $40,000 annually for the Morley Scholarship endowment, said John DiPippa, interim dean of Bowen Law School. The additional funds for the Morley endowment make this one of the largest scholarship funds at Bowen and will help many more students achieve a law school education.
“The Morley Scholarship is a need-based award available to students who want to practice in Pulaski County,” DiPippa said. “Need-based scholarships have dwindled at many law schools, but the Morley Scholarship will allow us to reduce costs to our students, many of whom come from central Arkansas and want to practice here. Our goal is to use it in a way that makes law school affordable for as many people as possible.”
Approximately 10 percent of the 2016-17 applicants to Bowen Law School were from the central Arkansas area, including Little Rock, North Little Rock, Jacksonville, Sherwood and Maumelle.
Graduating with a high student loan debt is often a barrier to lawyers who wish to serve in the public sector. In May, Bowen was named to U.S. News and World Report’s list of 10 law schools where graduates have the least student loan debt. The scholarship will allow its recipients to graduate with low debt so they can pursue legal careers in public-service fields that will help Arkansas residents, DiPippa said.
“Students who graduate with less debt have more job choices,” he said. “This lets students opt for lower-paying law jobs that serve the public, like prosecuting attorneys, public defenders, and legal aid.”
The average salary for someone who does legal aid work is around $40,000, he said, while the average starting salary in private firms is considerably higher.
“If students have a lot of debt, public jobs might not be economically feasible, even though that is where they would love to practice.,” DiPippa said. “There is always a need for well-educated lawyers to fill in gaps in public sectors to ensure that the rule of law is followed.”
“If you have good attorneys in prosecutors and public defenders, the public benefits from having the law fairly enforced and having the rule of law upheld,” DiPippa said.
More about the Dean R. Morley Scholarship
The Dean R. Morley Pulaski County Bar Foundation Scholarship is awarded every year to a UA Little Rock Bowen Law student in good standing who is a resident of Pulaski County and/or demonstrates a commitment to practicing law in Pulaski County upon graduation. Financial need is strongly considered.
Brothers Judge Randy Morley and Steve Morley established this scholarship in 2007 to honor their father’s legacy of serving others. Dean Morley served as a North Little Rock district judge during his career and was also the president of the Pulaski County Bar Association.
Steve Morley earned his Juris Doctor from Bowen in 1978 and held the same judgeship as his father during the 1990s. Randy Morley, who earned his undergraduate and law degrees from UA Little Rock in 1979 and 1982, currently sits on the bench where both his father and brother served.
“I know my dad is looking down from heaven with a smile,” said Steve Morley, who now runs his own law firm in North Little Rock. “He would love to know that the Bowen School of Law received such a wonderful gift. When my brother and I set up the scholarship several years ago, we hoped we could build it into something that would be beneficial to our alma mater. With this gift, we have far exceeded anything we ever dreamed of. We are grateful to all the people who have put in work on the Morley Scholarship.”
The Pulaski County Bar Foundation has made the Morley Scholarship one of its principal goals. The organization sponsors an annual fish fry and auction to benefit the scholarship fund that is attended and supported by hundreds of lawyers, judges, and lay people affiliated with the legal field in Pulaski County.