Dear Friends of the College of Law:
In many ways, we are beginning a new era at the College of Law. As the incoming Interim Dean, I want to update you on the changes we are experiencing—some exciting and some quite challenging—and to invite you to renew or expand your engagement with the law school, its students, and your fellow alumni.
At our commencement on May 10, we honored the graduation of the College’s centennial class. The formal anniversary of our first graduation is June 4, but we will be celebrating throughout the next academic year, beginning with our Centennial Symposium and Gala on September 20. Look for more information on those events in the months to come.
The Class of 2013 includes some of the most talented, diverse and dedicated graduates in the College’s history. Collectively, they devoted nearly 47,000 hours of volunteer community service during their three years of law school through clinical and pro bono placements. We fielded more external competition teams than in any prior year, giving our students valuable hands-on training, and our team won the best brief award at the National Moot Court Competition in New York. More students than ever took concentrated courses in legal drafting, litigation and transactional skills. That leaves them superbly prepared for a wide range of legal or law-related careers.
Yet this class still needs our help. The market for new lawyers is just beginning to recover, and frankly, many of our graduates are still looking for jobs. We are doing everything we can to connect our students with potential employers, and to expand the range of opportunities for them to consider. But you can help as well. If one of our graduates reaches out to you for advice, please give a few minutes of your time. If you know of employment opportunities we may have overlooked, in Utah or elsewhere, please contact our Professional Development Office and let them know.
Less than a month after the historic centennial commencement, on June 4, we broke ground on the College’s fourth physical “home.” (If you cannot identify each of the three buildings in which the law school has been located to date, the others are described in a colorful historical portrait in the centennial issue of Res Gestae, which we hope you will devour cover to cover.)
Many of you have already seen our presentations showing just how exciting our new building will be: state-of-the-art training facilities to prepare lawyers with skills as well as knowledge; spaces for collaborative research and clinical education; advanced but flexible learning technology and a library integrated throughout the building; and superior accessibility to students, employees, and visitors to address a full range of disabilities. Thanks to a recent grant from the Alternative Visions Fund of the Chicago Community Trust, ours will also be one of the most sustainable law school buildings in the world, which will save us money on operating costs for the life of the building and honor our commitment to conserving natural resources for future generations.
If you have not had the chance to see one of these presentations and would like to do so, please let me know. I would be happy to schedule one for any size group, at individual law offices or in other settings.
But I want to emphasize what I have from the day I was asked to serve as Interim Dean. It’s not just about the building. It’s about doing a better job of educating the next generation of lawyers. It’s about more engaged and more relevant scholarship by our faculty, and increasing community service by our students, faculty, and alumni. While we continue to put the finishing touches on the building design and oversee its construction, we are turning our attention to how we will use the new building to do a better job as educators, scholars, and community servants.
To achieve these goals, the faculty is in the midst of a comprehensive evaluation of our academic curriculum, our clinical and pro bono placements, and our other programs to determine what skills we teach well, where we might improve or refine our programs, and what is missing. We do not intend to fix programs that are not broken, or to chase every idea that has been proposed as a “solution” to the challenges facing legal education. We do intend to evaluate each potential solution carefully, and to adopt those that make the most sense for our students.
And in doing so, we welcome your input. Our future graduates will be your future employees, colleagues, and partners in preventing or resolving legal conflicts. You have as much of an interest as we do in ensuring that those aspiring lawyers receive the best training possible. Please let me know what you think we are doing well in preparing them to practice law, and what you think we can do better.
It’s also not just about the law school. Although our main incentive for building a new facility is to fulfill our immediate educational mission, we also want our new home to serve the needs of the broader Utah legal community. We invite members of the Utah bench and bar to consider how the new facility might be used for CLE programs and other trainings, and for other meetings and events. In addition to our top floor conference center, the building will have practice courtrooms and a range of other flexible skills training and meeting rooms for you to use.
Just as our students and recent graduates need your help, so do we in order to build a facility designed to train your future colleagues, to serve the needs of Utah’s legal community and the community at large, and to develop the programs necessary to do so. You can help by contributing to our Building Justice Fund—including our Green Building Fund in which you can double the value of your donation until we reach our $500,000 matching challenge grant from the Alternative Visions Fund. A growing number of law firms, individual alumni, and other law school friends have already given generously to this effort, and we thank you sincerely for that help. If you have not done so and want to learn the many ways you can help, please go to BuildingJustice.law.utah.edu.
At the same time, we need to maintain momentum in all of our ongoing programs. You can also help by contributing to student scholarships, the law library, each of our centers of academic excellence, the Pro Bono Initiative, or the Dean’s Fund. For a full range of opportunities to help, please visit law.utah.edu/give
Our other major milestone, of course, is the departure of Dean Hiram Chodosh, who has served the College of Law with great vision, energy, and distinction for seven years, and who now moves on to become President of Claremont McKenna College in California. I want to thank Hiram personally for all he has done for us, and wish him our best in his challenging but exciting new assignment. At the same time, I assure you that everyone at the College of Law is committed to building on the momentum Hiram has provided.
As we all move forward in our efforts to build a new facility and a better program for our students and our community, please feel free to contact me at any time with your questions and your ideas. I look forward to working with all of you.