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The University of Illinois at Chicago is in the midst of discussions that would have it absorbing the city's independent John Marshall Law School.

Leaders from the two institutions announced the discussions in memorandums Tuesday, according to Crain’s Chicago Business. They called the talks preliminary and exploratory. But they have been engaged for 16 months, with the two sides completing an assessment finding it would be financially feasible for John Marshall to become a part of UIC, the institutions said on a website answering frequently asked questions.

The timing of any change going forward will depend on reviews by accreditors and trustees. If the institutions move forward, John Marshall would become a new school within the university but continue to operate out of its facility in downtown Chicago. The arrangement would open the possibility of potential new joint programs, dual-degree programs, accelerated programs and enhanced student services, the law school and university say. It would also remove UIC from the small list of top-tier research universities without a law school and create the only public law school in Chicago.

UIC and John Marshall have discussed affiliating or merging in the past. Negotiations started in 1998 but broke off in 2001. The discussions are the latest development in an unsettled environment for legal education. Last week Valparaiso University announced its law school will stop admitting new students and seek a merger or relocation.

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