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.

BU Law in the Big Apple

In mid-November, I traveled to New York City with Assistant Dean for Career Development & Public Service Fiona Hornblower and Assistant Dean for Development & Alumni Relations Terry McManus to continue meeting with alumni and employers in major markets across the country. New York City is one of the most sought after destinations for our graduates, so we are always working to deepen our relationships with employers there.

Manhattan skyline at NightWhile in New York, Assistant Dean Hornblower and I had the opportunity to meet with several major law firms to update them on recent developments at the school and discuss how we can best partner with them. I am delighted that Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy plans to return to campus to recruit our students next fall; additionally I look forward to welcoming Milbank partner Jay Grushkin to the law school next spring where he will be a guest lecturer in my Secured Transactions class. I am also thrilled that Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom will be a sponsor for our new 1L Lawyering Lab this coming January.

We continue to work also on expanding opportunities for our students interested in public sector employment. For the second year in a row, we will be participating in the Gideon’s Promise Law School Partnership Program, under which BU Law will fund a student working in an under-resourced public defender’s office for a one-year period. And we look forward to announcing in the near future a matching challenge from the University to ensure post-graduate fellowship funding for the next several years.

Generally, one of our challenges has been developing a database that will serve our students and alumni by allowing our Career Development & Public Service Office to search for alumni by, for example, geographic location and area of practice. To help create that database and to update our information, we are sending out an alumni survey in December. The survey should take no more than 5 minutes to complete. I hope you will take the time to fill it out and share your thoughts.

I am happy to report that this year’s issue of our alumni magazine, The Record, will be arriving in mailboxes in the next few weeks. This issue features stories on alumni and their impact on social issues including civil rights and women’s rights in the Middle East. The cover story discusses how BU Law is moving initiatives forward to better prepare students for the practice of law in the 21st century. The magazine will also be available online at bu.edu/law/record2014. If you are not on the mailing list, you can email lawalum@bu.edu to request a copy.

With the opening of the Sumner M. Redstone Building, 2014 has been a very special year at BU Law. Thank you for helping make this long-awaited project a reality and best wishes from all of us at BU Law for a happy holiday season and a wonderful 2015!

California Deanin’

With the dedication of Boston University School of Law’s Redstone Building officially complete and the fall semester well underway, I traveled to California in October to visit alumni and employers. California is the second largest geographic area from which our students come and one of the most common work destinations for our graduates. It is critically important that we strengthen our relationships with the region’s employers and with our alumni who are now living and working out West. Our larger strategy is to continue to work to ensure that our students and alumni have a strong community of professional and social connections associated with BU Law. Each day, we see examples of how this community makes a difference, particularly in this challenging and evolving employment environment.

Accompanied by Fiona Hornblower, Assistant Dean for Career Development & Public Service, I visited leading employers in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Silicon Valley. I shared with them how we are preparing our students to graduate from BU Law with both the critical knowledge and lawyering skills that they need to be effective attorneys in a rapidly evolving legal environment. I was proud to update them on several of BU Law’s initiatives, including our 1L Lawyering Lab, our online Business Fundamentals course, and our Accelerated 3-Year JD/MBA degree program. In return, the firms gave us their thoughts on how we could partner with them to make our students even more competitive for the most coveted positions.

Myself, Assistant Dean Fiona Hornblower, and Nate O'Connell from the BU Law Alumni Office

Myself, Fiona Hornblower, and Nate O’Connell

While in California, I had the opportunity to meet individually with some alumni in the area and also to attend two alumni receptions. Jonathan Zepp (’01), Director of Entertainment Content Partnerships for YouTube hosted a reception at the Google/YouTube offices in Beverly Hills. In San Francisco, BU Law alumni gathered at the Aventine Parlor Bar. It was wonderful to hear how our alums are applying their law school educations and tapping into the BU Law alumni network throughout their careers. I also heard a lot of positive feedback about the Sumner M. Redstone Building from West Coast alumni who were in town for reunion. I hope that all of our alumni will be able to make a trip to Boston to tour our new building!

Alumni at our San Francisco reception

Alumni at our San Francisco reception

My trip to California was a great way to reconnect with and learn more from our alums in that great state. Our goal is to build formal alumni networks on the West Coast like we have in New York, Washington DC, and Chicago.

I hope that all of our alumni, regardless of location, will be ambassadors for BU Law with their employers. Please do connect with the Career Development & Public Service Office (lawcdo@bu.edu) to learn how you can help strengthen the BU Law network for students and alumni. Please also keep an eye out for the new Alumni Survey, which you should receive soon—and complete it so we can continue to serve you better!

I am now looking forward to traveling to New York November 4 – 6 for more employer and alumni visits. It can’t all be sunshine and palm trees!