Building on a Vibrant Tradition
This is an exciting time to begin a deanship. The Law School is as intellectually vibrant as it has ever been. This year we will host talks by, among others, Justice Samuel Alito, William Cronon, author of Nature’s Metropolis, and a group of retired U.S. generals who will talk about interrogation techniques. Our students are as committed, active, and energetic as ever. I spoke recently with two students participating in the Cowan Fellows Human Rights Study Project, who are preparing to travel to Cambodia to study the treatment of linguistic minorities. Interacting with these remarkable young men and women makes teaching at the Law School a joy.
In my first few months as dean, I’ve had the pleasure of traveling to a number of cities to meet alumni. One of the most common questions I hear at these gatherings is whether and how today’s students differ from those of years past. In most important respects — their sense of community, their desire to maintain balanced lives, and their affection for their peers and the Law School — they are just like the graduates who preceded them. But they are also keenly astute consumers who are determined to get the most from their legal education. That fact has raised the bar for every law school in the nation. In order to attract the best, we need to be the best — to provide the highest quality education by the most accomplished and interesting faculty. We relish that challenge.
One way in which we respond is to constantly seek new ways to enrich the education we provide. In these pages, you will read about two exciting new curricular enhancements. One is the Innocence Project at the University of Virginia School of Law, a clinical offering focused on securing post-conviction relief for the wrongfully convicted. The clinic is led by Deirdre Enright ’92, who has extensive experience representing capital defendants in post-conviction proceedings. We have also launched a Program in Public Interest Law under Associate Dean Jim Ryan’s leadership. The Program aims to do for public interest law what the Law & Business Program did for our students who are interested in that field — provide a set of core courses, exposure to some of the most experienced and successful people in the field, and help with curricular and career planning. One of the founding ideals of the Law School is that lawyers serve not just their private interests, but the public good, and we hope to live up to that ideal.Another constant in the life of the Law School is the support of the most loyal and generous alumni of any law school in the nation. A new dean could not ask for more than the kind words of encouragement and assistance I receive regularly from alumni, many of whom I am meeting for the first time. They reflect our graduates’ tremendous attachment to and affection for the Law School and eagerness to see it succeed. For that, all of us who are privileged to work at the Law School are grateful.