The Future of Legal Education

Last week, I participated in a webinar with a panel of leaders in the law, including attorneys from private firms and corporations, CLE providers, and bar associations. The panel, brought together by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute, discussed the future of legal education and how we should train the next generation of lawyers. We discussed what qualities characterize a good lawyer and how law schools can best prepare their students for their first legal jobs.

1L Lawyering Lab

1L Lawyering Lab

Though the panelists came from a variety of backgrounds, we all agreed that not only are the traditional skills of analytical thinking and problem-solving important, but so too are the “soft” skills – now more than ever. One panelist from the corporate sector stressed the importance of a lawyer’s ability to generate trust, which depends critically on their relationship-building skills. I emphasized the importance of resilience, self-possession, and civility. And now, more than ever, technology is rapidly changing how lawyers practice in a wide variety of ways. As law schools, we must consider how best to respond to this new reality and equip our students to be adaptable throughout the long arc of their careers.

One of the topics discussed was how best to transition students from law school to real-world practice. I am proud to say that at BU Law, we are thinking critically every day about how best to balance our traditional excellent training in analytical and theoretical thinking with the market demand for practice-ready lawyers. BU Law has been a national leader in developing experiential learning opportunities for our students throughout their three years, enabling them to obtain meaningful legal experience before beginning their first jobs.

In their first year, students participate in the 1L career conference where they hear from alumni practicing in a wide range of settings, including some non-traditional ones. After the conference, each student is paired with a Career Development Office advisor and faculty mentor. Together, the team works to help achieve the student’s educational and career goals. During intersession, we require all 1L students to participate in an intensive one-week “Lawyering Lab,” which helps students build basic skills like client counseling, negotiation, and contract drafting, through a simulated business transaction. And our Transactional Law program and externship (including Semester-in-Practice) and clinical offerings provide upper-class students with broad-ranging opportunities to gain hands-on legal experience that will serve them well in their future careers. The goal of all of these programs is not only to give students the opportunity to think about the different ways in which they can practice law, but also to help them evaluate their skill sets by identifying areas of expertise as well as those in need of improvement.

Indeed, we have heard from alumni and employers that mastery of certain basic business skills is one area in which new graduates from all law schools need to improve. In response, we have created an online business fundamentals program, covering topics like understanding financial statements, capital markets, and valuation of risk. All students must either “test out” of the course or complete it successfully in order to graduate.

Additionally, we believe that the future of legal education will feature more training in compliance and regulation. There is a significant demand in the US and abroad for lawyers with an understanding of the new compliance paradigm. We hope to offer our students the opportunity to learn the basic skills that will enable them to identify, analyze, and control compliance risks in various commercial and financial contexts.

In this ever-changing legal and education environment, we must continually strive to stay on top of the latest innovations, trends, and challenges so that we can give students of the law the skills they need to succeed from day one on the job. And we can only do this by continuing to value the deeply analytical and theoretical training we have always provided while also realizing the promise of our theme of “thinking forward” by creating even more innovative programs.

Welcoming the BU Law Class of 2018

With February over and March finally here, we can now look forward to not only the coming of spring but also to welcoming our admitted students to BU Law.

Dean at Reception

Boston Alumni & Admitted Students Reception

This past month, I attended an alumni and admitted students reception at Goodwin Procter in Boston. The reception gave these students an opportunity to speak to some of our faculty members, who represent one of the top faculties in the nation, and to our Boston alumni. After all, who better to tell prospective students all about BU Law than those who have experienced all the School has to offer? Our alumni are an invaluable resource to students, offering insight into BU Law courses, clinics and externships, and careers.

At the event, I was pleased to report on the success of our very first 1L Lawyering Lab, which gave first-year students an introduction to “real-world” lawyering skills that are applicable to a wide range of practice areas. I was also delighted to talk about how much our students enjoy the beautiful new Redstone Building and to give an update on the law tower, which is currently undergoing a complete renovation and will be finished and just-like-new by the fall!

6A2A0094

NY Alumni Panel & Admitted Students Reception

Last month, The Clearing House in New York hosted a panel for alumni and admitted students on the entertainment industry and the law. New York has the second largest concentration of BU Law graduates of any state in the country, with some of our alumni working at large firms, corporations, public interest organizations, and even the 27-time World Champion New York Yankees! Our alumni serve as proof that though you’ll get your degree in Boston, you can begin your legal career in New York, DC, or any state in the country.

I will be in San Francisco on March 12th for another reception with alumni and admitted students. I always enjoy catching up with our alumni around the country and I look forward to meeting more of our impressive admitted students.

Later this month, we will host our Preview Days and welcome our admitted students into the BU Law family. I look forward to meeting the new members of our community who, I have no doubt, will continue BU Law’s legacy of pushing the boundaries of the legal field and becoming the best in the legal profession.

BU Law was recently ranked #19 on the National Law Journal‘s list of “Go-To” law schools with new graduates working in the largest law firms. Additionally, 16 BU Law alumni were promoted from associate to partner at the 250 largest firms in 2014, the 11th most associate-to-partner promotions among all law schools according to the NLJ rankings. This year, our faculty was ranked #2 for the Best Law Professors and #7 for Best Classroom Experience by The Princeton Review. We just learned that BU Law is #26 on this year’s U.S. News & World Report ranking of the nation’s law schools, rising one spot from our #27 ranking last year.

While these external rankings change from year to year, our commitment to providing our students with the best possible legal education never wavers. We offer a rigorous curriculum, stellar faculty, extensive clinical and externship opportunities, and new programs such as the 1L Lawyering Lab, Business Fundamentals course, and Transactional Law program, all of which are focused on helping our students be successful in their first legal job and throughout their professional career.

BU Law Students and Alumni Are Ready and Willing to Help Those in Need

Public service has always been a part of BU Law’s legacy. Our students, faculty, and alumni demonstrate their commitment through clinical work, pro bono projects, public service fellowships, and through their own lives and careers. On March 5th, at a reception for our alumni and admitted students at the DC law office of Covington & Burling, I will have the honor of presenting BU Law’s Washington DC Public Service Alumni Award to Deborah Mayer (’97), Director of Investigations for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Ethics and Commander in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.

Like Deborah, many of our current students want to pursue careers in public interest law. Even in the face of employment challenges and societal issues, our students are ready and willing to step in and help those in need.

Demonstrating our commitment to public service, President Brown has issued a $1,000,000 matching challenge for Post-Graduate Public Service Fellowships at the School of Law. These fellowships help graduates launch their desired careers while supporting struggling courts, organizations, and agencies. Please join us in supporting our Public Service Fellows and the important work they are doing in our communities.

At BU Law’s Human Trafficking Clinic, just named one of the nation’s most innovative law school clinics by The National Jurist, students assist victims of sex and labor trafficking. In 2013, our students helped publish the first-ever human trafficking guide for Massachusetts attorneys, which gives lawyers the information and tools to navigate the challenging legal issues faced by victims.

Next month, dozens of our students will travel to cities across the country on pro bono service trips during their spring break to work on legal issues that disproportionately affect low-income individuals. Whether they spend the week working in Detroit, Newark, New Orleans, or other cities, they will devote themselves to meeting the legal needs of under-served communities.

And in April, our students will host the annual Public Interest Program (PIP) Auction to fund grants for students working in unpaid public interest or government summer internships. Last year, PIP raised enough money to provide grants to 80 BU Law students. I hope that you will attend this great event and bid on the auction items! See you there!

Remembering Senator Edward Brooke (’48)

Obama, Congressional Leaders Honor Former Senator Edward William BrookeI am sorry to report that Senator Edward Brooke (’48) passed away today at the age of 95.  The press coverage of his life – and death – is extensive. See, e.g., http://bit.ly/14mboNs

While there is little for me to add to the factual information in the press reports, I would like to say just a few words about my personal experience with the Senator.

I first met him when he came to BU to donate his papers to the Gotlieb Archive.  I was the Interim Dean then and sat in the back, awed by the occasion and his presence. Imagine my shock when in the middle of his speech, he recognized me after reading an article in the Globe about BU Law’s increasing its loan repayment assistance endowment by $500,000. He emphasized the importance of public service and was proud of his alma mater’s legacy and ongoing commitment.

Needless to say, we became great friends quickly! It was a singular honor of my life to attend the ceremony at which President Obama awarded him the Congressional Gold Medal.

I loved visiting the Senator and his wife Anne at their home in Miami. It was humbling to see the memorabilia associated with a life of public service and to talk about current issues and hear the Senator’s perspective.

Senator Brooke stands for many things and we are proud to claim him as our own and as one of our – and our nation’s – “firsts.”  Yet, for me, he transcends both race and politics. I will always be grateful to have had the opportunity to meet a man of his wisdom, kindness, generosity and humility. I will miss him.

Asking the Troubling Questions That Weigh on Our Minds

At a time of year when our law school community feels the inevitable tension and anxiety associated with final exams, many of us are also grappling with grief, anger and exasperation over the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City, and the subsequent grand jury decisions in those cases.

Last night, I had the opportunity to join with students, faculty and staff who came together to speak candidly about these events and to ask the troubling questions that have weighed on our minds about the justice system, racial bias, and the grand jury process. I heard students share their personal concerns, express their sadness and frustration, and wonder aloud: “What can I do?”.

At BU Law, we are committed to not just teaching you the law, but helping you to take that knowledge into the real world, where you can use it to fight injustice, advocate for your clients, and create better laws for our society. You have those opportunities now in many of our clinics and externships, and in a number of our student organizations. We recognize that there are more opportunities to engage and will continue to execute programs and community discussions.

As I mentioned, we are planning to create a law school task force to provide input into initiatives to help address any unmet student needs while also providing opportunities for personal growth and professional competency development as it relates to diversity and social responsibility.

In the meantime, let us continue this important dialogue about the difficult issues that the cases in Ferguson and New York have raised for us both as lawyers and as active citizens.