Dean Karen Rothenberg of University of Maryland School of Law, Dean Daisy Floyd of Mercer University Law School and Dean Mary Crossley of University of Pittsburgh School of Law

Dean Karen Rothenberg of University of Maryland School of Law, Dean Daisy Floyd of Mercer University Law School and Dean Mary Crossley of University of Pittsburgh School of Law

 

 

 

Today began at 7:00 a.m.  The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) hosted a breakfast from 7:00-8:30 a.m.  The night before, Sunday night, when we were all out to dinner we’d teased Dan Bernstein about the need to be there at 7:00 a.m. since we were all out together the night before.  He gave us a hint that perhaps things wouldn’t start until a little bit later in the morning, and as it turned out when we arrived at 8:00 a.m. we had plenty of time to hear the presentation by LSAC.  I guess that’s an example of the expression that there’s “no such thing as a free breakfast.” We heard a welcome and update from Dan, the LSAC CEO, as well as from Ellen Rutt, the current Chair of the LSAC Board.  The main takeaway was that the number of applicants to ABA law schools is down this year.  However, this is preliminary data.  The number of LSATs (law school admission tests) administered at year end last year was actually up by 5.3%, so it will be interesting to see what those numbers look like at the end of this LSAC year.  We also received a chart entitled, “Where are Law School Applications Coming From?” which showed a percentage change from Fall 2007 to Fall 2008.  As of August 8, 2008, in our region of the country (South Central) the number of students applying to law school was down 1%.  That wasn’t the greatest decline.  The Northwest area of the country experienced that, but in the far West there was growth.  By the way, it was a very nice breakfast.  It was a buffet with eggs, sausage, hashbrowns, bacon, coffee, orange juice and a variety of fruit and pastries. 

The first session that morning after breakfast was entitled “The Millennials.” It was a discussion about how the new generation of American law students and attorneys are changing the practice of law.  The speakers on that panel were Dean Linda Ammons as the moderator, Prof. Tracy McGaugh at Touro College, and Nancy Philippi who is an attorney at Quarles & Brady.  It was a pretty lively discussion, including a clip from 60 Minutes on millennials which we all found pretty interesting.   

From 10:30 a.m. – Noon the session was “Effective Communication Between Chief Justices and Law School Deans,” and Representatives from three states discussed how they monitor law school admissions and conduct regular meetings between Chief Justices and law school deans.  The moderator was Dean Barry Vickrey from the University of South Dakota School of Law.  The speakers were Robert Bell, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Maryland; Mark Dows, Director, Pennsylvania State Bar; Mary Crossley, Dean of University of Pittsburgh School of Law; Geoffrey Mearns, Dean of Cleveland State University, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law; Thomas Moyer, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Ohio; and Karen Rothenberg, Dean of University of Maryland School of Law.   

One of the most interesting ideas to come out of this session (at least for me) was the idea that the Ohio law school deans have a yearly retreat of two days with the Ohio Supreme Court.  The Court also works with the law schools on the pipeline programs that reach all the way back to high school freshmen.  In their pipeline program, 37 students are exposed to a six week program that shows them what it’s like to be a lawyer.  The faculty of their pipeline program is comprised of current law students.  The participants in the program are not the gifted young people necessarily, but it reaches out to children who are in the middle of their class.  They (the deans and the Supreme Court) also work together on a Legal Education Reform Task Force which was developed in the retreats.  During their gatherings they also talk about national trends in legal education, and both the deans and the Chief Justices agreed the retreats foster collegiality between the schools and also between the schools and the Court.  It provides a regular and formal setting to talk about the challenges faced by both and I think that’s a really good idea.   

On that same panel, Dean Rothenberg talked about the potential for law school faculty to engage in research that is helpful to the Court.  Her law school put on a round table discussion and invited lawyers from around the state and members of the judiciary to talk about the results of the research.  Judge Bell talked about how much he enjoys going to the law schools to greet the incoming first year law students and that he also goes to the law schools to swear-in the clinic students, which is an idea I hadn’t thought of before.  The Maryland Court sponsors an annual dinner with law school deans, the Court, and the President of the state bar as well as the state bar Executive Director.  I think these are all good ideas that we might look at in Arkansas and I’ll be following up with Justice Hannah about some of these ideas.   

After that session, both the deans and the Chief Justices attended a lunch which featured retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, United States Supreme Court, as a keynote speaker.  She talked about the need for the independence of the judiciary and the need for an unbiased judicial selection process. 

Dean Linda Ammons, Chief Justice McGregor, Tracy McGaugh and Nancy Philippi

Dean Linda Ammons, Chief Justice McGregor, Tracy McGaugh and Nancy Philippi

 

That afternoon the deans and Chief Justices attended separate workshops.  The first session was entitled, “Reflections: Dean’s Meeting with the Chief Justices,” which was a panel that informally reflected on the morning’s remarks.  I thought the most striking comment was provided by Dean Shelley Broderick that the notion of millennials came from a middle class perspective.  She reminded us that not all students are middle class, so the millennial designation is not necessarily the best fit for students at many of the law schools and that we all needed to be cognizant of that. 

There was a little break after that session and the next panels ran together.  Dean Kent Syverud had a small 15 minute segway into the panel that followed.  It was entitled, “Beyond the Classroom and the Faculty Lounge: The Dean as CEO.” He talked about some of the challenges that are unique to law school deans because of the structure of the law schools.  For example, there are not typically department chairs, so the dean serves both as the CEO of the unit and as the department chair.  Dean Syverud introduced some of the topics for the panel entitled, “Managing Up and Managing Down: University Administration, Boards, Legislatures, and Staff.” On that panel were Dean David Yellen, Loyola University-Chicago School of Law, Dean Jack Weiss, Chancellor, Louisiana State University, and Dean Mary Crossley. 

Following the plenary session there were three breakout sessions the deans could  chose between.  One, lead by Dean Raymond Pierce, North Carolina Central University School of Law, was on the topic of “Legislatures and Boards.” The second was lead by Dean Peter Alexander, Southern Illinois University School of Law, on “Staff and Administrators,” and the third, lead by Dean David Rudenstine, Yeshiva University Benjamin Cardozo School of Law, on “Law Schools as ‘cash cows’.” I attended the session on staff and administrators.  These informal breakout sessions are one of the good things about the Deans’ Workshops.  Deans can explain their problems and other deans share ideas.  It’s really good if you need help thinking something through.  There’s always a good mixture of experienced deans versus new deans in the room, new ways of thinking of things, and an open, candid discussion.  It was a very helpful breakout session. 

Dean Kellye Testy of Seattle University School of Law coordinated a dinner for all the women law deans later that evening at 7:30 p.m.  There are 39 of us now.  This year the dinner was held in honor of the late Mary C. Daly of St. John’s Law School who passed away in fall 2008.  The dinner was held at the Camelback Inn Golf Club and the menu consisted of Inn baked breads; mixed greens salad with ranch and Italian dressing; marinated cucumber and Bermuda onion salad; penny pasta salad; roasted chicken breast; filet of salmon with lemon butter sauce; seasonal mixed vegetables; rice pilaf; and dessert was creme brulee and mixed berries.  It was a buffet meal.  Dean Testy had arranged for a little mini bus to take everybody over, but I rode with Dean Linda Ammons and Dean JoAnne Epps.  I should say that Dean Ammons has been having some problems with her knee and it was actually easier for her to drive than to navigate the stairs of the bus, so we rode with her to keep her company.   

Dean Shelley Broderick and Karen Rotherberg

Dean Shelley Broderick and Karen Rotherberg

 

The Women Law Deans dinner is always a wonderful event.  I look forward to it each year.  Each of us share some of the joys and challenges of the year, and as I mentioned before, this year we all gave a tribute to Dean Mary Daly who had mentored many women law deans.  In addition, we recognized a couple of deans who are stepping down, Dean Patty O’Hara and Dean Karen Rothenberg, and toasted them.  It was a wonderful evening.  It went a little bit long, but it’s always a terrific event and one of the highlights of the deans’ conferences. 

Advertisements