Dedicating Our New Law Library and Celebrating Our Alumni’s Accomplishments

Matthew Lee ('16), former BU Law Dean William Schwartz, Samuel Fineman, myself, and President Brown

Matthew Lee (’16), former BU Law Dean William Schwartz, Samuel Fineman, myself, and President Brown

Thank you to all of our alumni, faculty, staff, students, and friends who joined us last month for a very special Reunion & Alumni Weekend. More than 100 visitors toured the newly renovated law tower, marveling at the transformation of our law school’s 50-year-old home. Fittingly, we paid homage that day to our law school’s distinguished history with the dedication of the Samuel M. Fineman Law Library in honor of former BU Law Dean William Schwartz and his wife Bernice.

At the ceremony, Samuel Fineman (JD’72, LLM ’87) recalled how he had first met Dean Schwartz (DGE’52, LAW’55, GRS’60) when he was a first-year law student, and how that first meeting turned into a lifelong friendship. As I listened to Sam express his admiration for Bill and Bernice Schwartz, I felt privileged to share the stage with the man who served BU Law as a professor for 25 years and as dean from 1980 to 1988.

Dean Schwartz speaking to the crowd

Dean Schwartz at the Fineman Library Dedication

In his remarks, Dean Schwartz recalled his days as a BU Law student and faculty member when the school was still located on Beacon Hill, and the excitement of the law school community when it first moved to BU’s Charles River campus. At the time, the tower housed both the Schools of Law and Education, with separate entrances and elevators for each. Today, we have Dean Schwartz to thank for convincing former BU President John Silber that the law school should occupy the entire tower.

Our student speaker, Matthew Lee (’16), thanked Sam Fineman for his generous gift to the law school and spoke about the importance of the new library to all of our students. BU President Robert Brown likened our law library to a crucial building tool that will help our students and faculty pursue critical legal scholarship.

President Brown, Christopher Strang ('05), Lt Col Robert Chatham ('95), Delida Costin ('95), Therese Enders, and myself

President Brown, Christopher Strang (’05), Lt Col Robert Chatham (’95), Delida Costin (’95), Therese Enders, and myself

On Saturday night, we held our Reunion Gala and Silver Shingle Awards Ceremony at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. I was honored to present the Young Lawyer’s Chair to Christopher Strang (’05), founding partner at Strang, Scott, Giroux & Young, and the Gerard H. Cohen Award to Therese Enders, senior program coordinator for our Office of Clinical and Advocacy Programs. After dinner, I was delighted to present Silver Shingles to USAF Lt. Colonel Robert Chatham (’95) for Service to the Community, and to former Pandora and General Counsel Delida Costin (’95) for Service to the Profession.

Silver Shingle Awards at the Museum of Fine Arts

Silver Shingle Awards at the Museum of Fine Arts

I was particularly grateful to be able to honor President Brown with a Silver Shingle for Service to the School. He was instrumental in planning and financing our new home, convincing Sumner Redstone to make the lead gift, and ensuring that the university provided the resources that were needed to transform the law tower into the modern law school facility that it is now.

At the moment that I thought the awards presentation was complete, I was sincerely surprised and deeply touched when President Brown announced that the law school was presenting me with a Silver Shingle for Service to the School. It is an honor for which I am very grateful, and one that I accept on behalf of every member of the BU Law community who has helped make the law school the outstanding institution that it is today.

Our Beautiful New Law School

We have reopened the law tower after a total renovation, and it looks beautiful! From the completely refurbished Barristers Hall on the 1st floor to the modern classrooms on the 4th floor, from the spacious courtrooms on the 6th and 7th floors to the sleek career development interview rooms on the 8th floor, we are still marveling at the transformation of the 50-year-old law tower.

The sixth floor hosts the largest moot courtroom in the complex.

The sixth floor hosts the largest moot courtroom in the complex.

Even the exterior looks brand new: every window has been replaced, all the concrete surfaces have been repaired and cleaned, and the once-faded red and green panels have been restored to their original colors.

Now that the tower has been renovated and “re-attached” to the brand new Sumner M. Redstone Building on the lower five floors, we have a spacious, modern law school that houses all of our classrooms, courtrooms, faculty and administrative offices, law libraries, and law journals.

The Butler Atrium and McCausland Commons have become popular gathering places for students and faculty. And the 15 group study rooms located throughout the law school will provide many options for students preparing for classes and exams in the coming years.

My office is now located on the 11th floor, along with the Development & Alumni Relations Office. And our faculty have moved into their new offices on floors 13-16. I invite you to attend our open house on Friday, September 25 at 11 am to take a tour of our entire law school complex, which encompasses the Redstone Building and the law tower.

I also encourage you to join us that day at 3 pm for the dedication of the Samuel M. Fineman Law Library in honor of former BU Law Dean William Schwartz and his wife Bernice. Our students benefit immensely from being able to study and conduct research in this modern new library.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the fundraising campaign for our new law school facility. We couldn’t have done it without you! I’d also like to recognize the excellent work of the Bruner/Cott architectural firm and the Skanska construction team. They designed and built a beautiful new home for BU Law, which we will enjoy for many years to come.

Best of Luck to the Class of 2015

Thank you to our graduation speaker Senator Edward Markey and our newest alumni and their families and friends for a wonderful Commencement ceremony. The Class of 2015 is the first to graduate from our brand-new building and they have made us proud. For the last three years, they have brought their passion and intellect to their studies at BU Law and to their service of our community.

With their diplomas officially in hand, the Class of 2015 will pursue new opportunities around the country and the world.  I would like to share with you the plans of just a few of our newest alumni.

Many of our graduates will enter into private practice in cities around the globe. While some will remain in Boston and around New England, others will launch their careers in cities including New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and San Diego. At least one graduate will be providing legal services in the military as a member of the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Others will be working for the federal government in civilian roles in organizations like the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

John Travis

John Travis

Several of our new graduates have earned prestigious fellowships. John Travis has been awarded a two-year fellowship from the Immigrant Justice Corps (IJC), which places law graduates with leading nonprofit immigration legal services organizations in New York. He will work with Catholic Charities in Manhattan, primarily on asylum, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, removal defense, and U-visa cases.

Kate Lebeaux

Kate Lebeaux

Kate Lebeaux received a fellowship from the Department of Justice Attorney General’s Honors program, the largest and most prestigious federal entry-level attorney-hiring program of its kind. She will spend two years as a fellow at Boston Immigration Court where she will perform legal research and draft bench memos and decisions for deportation cases for seven immigration judges.

Other members of the Class of 2015 will be working in district attorney and public defender offices around the country in cities like Brooklyn, Miami, West Palm Beach, Manhattan, Philadelphia, and Las Vegas.

As you know, we recently began a fundraising initiative to help fund students to work full-time for a year providing legal services to a non-profit organization or government agency. I can’t thank you enough for your response. As a result of your generosity, eleven students were awarded BU Law Public Service Fellowships:

  • Kyra Berasi – Center for Reproductive Rights, US Policy and Advocacy Program, Washington, DC
  • Dena Birkenkamp, William and Patricia Kleh Fellow – Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, Immigration Law Project, Minneapolis, MN
  • Caitlyn Byers – Disability Law Center, Boston, MA. She is the recipient of the N. Neal Pike Fellowship, which sponsors a fellow to work in the field of disability rights.
  • Margot Finkel, Lisa G. Beckerman Fellow – New York State Attorney General’s Office, Labor Bureau, New York, NY
  • Emily Fridman, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP Fellow – Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Malden, MA
  • Danielle Hites, Yanan and Dan Schwartz Fellow – International Justice Resource Center, San Francisco, CA
  • Kerry Sheehan, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP Fellow – Public Knowledge, Washington, DC
  • Gillian Stoddard Leatherberry, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP Fellow – Legal Aid Society, Employment Law Unit, New York, NY
  • Hannah Tanabe, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP Fellow – Greater Boston Legal Services, CORI & Re-Entry Project, Boston, MA
  • Mike Tartaglia – Sixth Amendment Center, Boston, MA
  • Diona Vakili, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP Fellow – BU School of Law Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, Boston, MA
  • Nicole Wolfman, Gerard H. Cohen Fellow – Committee for Public Counsel Services, Public Defender Division, Brockton, MA

We look forward to the Class of 2015’s keeping in touch with us and wish them all the best in their new ventures.

From Ferguson to New York to Baltimore: How BU Law Is Responding

The tragic death of Freddie Gray, and the ensuing riots in Baltimore, are affecting our law school community on many levels. A number of our students come from Baltimore and dozens of our alumni live and practice in the city. As lawyers, we have a responsibility to not only uphold the law and put justice and truth at the center of our society, but to be a resource for those struggling to understand how these events continue to happen in the United States.

I am proud that our faculty, staff, and students are taking part in the discussion on social justice and are passionate about responding to, and examining how, the issues evidenced by tragedies and unrest in Ferguson, MO, New York City, and Baltimore affect the entire country, and specifically, the legal profession. These are complex times, and it is the obligation of BU Law to take on that complexity as we prepare students to lead in the legal profession.

This year, the BU Law community came together at a number of events to voice opinions, fears, and questions. BU Law was well represented at university-wide events, such as the “We are Ferguson” discussion hosted by BU Dean of Students Kenn Elmore, “BU #Standtogether,” February’s Black Lives Matter Symposium, and the Vigil for Ferguson held on Marsh Plaza. Our community was present at protests and debates on police accountability; community policing; prosecutorial discretion; and civic responsibility.

The Black Law Students Association hosted the “Know Your Rights” training session in the Redstone Building, and the BU Law ACLU held a dynamic program titled: “Black, Brown, and Targeted: Police Accountability in Boston.” Faculty, staff and students came together for the “Safe Space for Ferguson: Study Break to Break the Silence,” as well as a Legacy Series Forum on “Grand Juries and Race,” addressing prosecutorial discretion, the grand jury process, and federal regulations affecting the process.

In addition to these events, BU Law faculty contributed to the national dialogue with their expertise. Professors Jack Beermann and David Rossman wrote FAQs explaining the grand jury process and federal civil rights statutes to help our community better understand the legal issues in the cases in Ferguson and in New York. Professor Beermann, who was interviewed by the International Business Times about the Ferguson case, opened a class session that featured Assistant US Attorney Theodore Merritt talking about the federal charges that are considered in these types of cases.

Through these efforts, our students and the larger BU community continue to express their concerns and ask the questions weighing on our minds. We will continue to host events to discuss these complex matters. We will continue to challenge and assess the status quo through legal analysis, faculty research and in-class discussions. We will continue to bring national leaders to campus to explore issues of social justice and the role of lawyers as social engineers. And BU Law will continue to engage with the community through our clinics, our externships, our alumni, and our networks to do our part in ensuring the legal system is a just one.

Professor Rossman has authored a FAQ regarding the events in BUnitedBaltimore, and one of our students has taken the lead to plan “BUnited for Baltimore” this Friday, May 8, where students can share their thoughts and listen to guest speaker and Professor of Ethical Leadership, Dr. Walter Fluker. We encourage students to talk to each other and to our faculty and staff about their concerns. BU Law’s response to these events, and the deeper issues that are at the root of them, will continue as it is our mission and our responsibility to meet the needs of the students and an ever-changing world.

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.