Welcome friends of Northwestern University School of Law. I hope you will enjoy these observations about our Law School, about legal education and the rapidly changing legal profession, and about (on a somewhat lighter note) the adventures of a new transplant to the City of Big Shoulders.
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It was a great pleasure to host the 2014 Northwestern Law Alumni Awards yesterday, and I’m pleased to share with you some of the highlights:
The Dean’s Legacy Award went to the Honorable John Paul Stevens. His award was presented by Kate Shaw, his former law clerk.
Carter Phillips addressed the crowd after receiving the Distinguished Alumni Award.
The Volunteer Service Award was presented to Paul Meister.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel presented Tina Tchen with the Dawn Clark Netsch Public Service Award; your faithful blogger is there on the right.
The Emerging Leader Award was presented to Todd Belcore by Cindy Wilson, Clinical Professor of Law and the Director of the Center for Externships.
The Dean’s Partnership Award was presented to the Kenneth F. and Harle G. Montgomery Foundation. Pictured here: Tom Geraghty, Professor and Director of the Bluhm Legal Clinic, with Cynthia Kobel and Walter Bell, who accepted the award on behalf of the foundation.
It was a great event – thanks to everyone who joined us for the celebration, and to our award winners, for all they do for Northwestern Law.
Yesterday, Northwestern Law launched a historic fundraising campaign.
Motion to Lead: The Campaign for Northwestern Law will raise $150 million for financial aid, curricular innovation, law-business-technology programs, social justice initiatives, the Bluhm Legal Clinic, global projects, and the new Center for Practice Engagement & Innovation. This campaign will build the philanthropic support that will enable us—with creativity, energy, and innovative thinking—to address the challenges facing legal education. These challenges are inextricably bound up with the future of the legal profession, and how we prepare our students for that future. Our students have high expectations of us, as they should. We are taking bold steps to meet and exceed these expectations. This campaign is an example: it is the largest fundraising campaign in the school’s history. We have already raised $67 million toward our very ambitious goal. (To put that in historical context, our last campaign raised a total of $78 million.) Developing the resources that will enable us to leverage our existing assets and create new ones is an essential obligation because in the future it will not be enough to be merely excellent. In the future, the best law schools will be different in ways that make a difference. And that is our plan.
In the coming weeks, I’ll discuss more—much more—about the specifics of the campaign and the Law School’s strategic plan on this blog. I look forward to sharing that with you.
Building on the “specialization” posts I referenced recently, another interesting post by Prof. Campbell of Peking Law. How can I not agree with his analysis when he references Northwestern Law’s admissions process in particular?
I certainly associate myself with his observations about the role and pertinence of these key lawyer competencies. Where I might quibble just a bit in his observation, referencing NYU in particular (although he might as well have referenced other law schools, including ours), that there is limited value added by the work within law school to develop these competencies. I do believe there is more value that meets the eye. Emphasis on developing business skills is growing and I think that is a fruitful development indeed.
My colleague, Leigh Buchanan Bienen, who is first and foremost an expert on (and agitator for) capital punishment reform, just published a book about Florence Kelley—labor activist, political reformer, and 1895 Northwestern Law alumna. Kelley’s tireless efforts to reform labor laws, particularly for women and children, had a profound impact on working in the United States.
Florence Kelley and the Children: Factory Inspector in 1890s Chicago, focuses on Kelley’s life in Chicago in the 1890s, during which time she served as Chief Factory Inspector for the State of Illinois. A woman in a job like that was all but unheard of in those days, but so was a woman earning a law degree. Kelley put her legal education to good use in her lifelong efforts to change labor laws. She battled legislation challenging the Illinois factory inspection law all the way to the Supreme Court, and won. She was one of the contributors to the 1908 Brandeis Brief, which combined legal argument with scientific evidence and changed American jurisprudence forever, and she worked on other labor-law cases heard by the nation’s highest court. She was an appellate rock star in an age when women couldn’t vote.
The book is more than a just a history, though. Using biographical elements from her own life and work, Leigh draws interesting parallels between the struggles of the labor movement of the late 19th century and the events that led to the end of capital punishment in Illinois just a few years ago. Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here, describes the book in this way: “In these pages, Leigh Bienen offers a worthy tribute to Kelley and draws intriguing parallels to the struggles of today.”
My congratulations, and my thanks, to Leigh!
Here is one quotation which frames the basic argument:
“[L]aw practice has changed fundamentally since Langdell reformed law teaching. Today law practice is highly specialized, and rather than roaming across the field of the common law modern lawyers tend to their own narrow patch of expertise. Today, no one can master all the ‘dogma’ that is routinely applied by lawyers in the major law firms or major government agencies. There is just too much. Whatever marks the commonality of the practice of law – and should therefore play into the training of lawyers – it’s not applying the same technical legal expertise on a day to day basis.
Neither does the background knowledge or skill reflected in ‘thinking like a lawyer’ provide a sufficient answer to training lawyers. As practice has evolved, legal reasoning remains important – much as putting is important to golf – but it’s far from the whole game.”
The “quandary,” Campbell notes, is how law schools ought to best train these students who will encounter a highly specialized practice. I have some thoughts on that (as he and others certainly do). More on that in a future post. But, for now, note the important implication he draws from these observations about the trends toward specialization and commodification of legal services:
“As legal practice becomes more and more specialized, the possibilities for non-lawyer specialists to take on roles that used to belong to lawyers become ever greater. If a lawyer does not actually need broad based legal training to proved the specialized service, competitors who are not lawyers can enter the market unless the market is protected. On the corporate side, where regulatory barriers are largely papered over by having general counsel in between the law workers and the non-lawyer clients, we can already see a number of these – e-discovery specialists, document review specialists, litigation consultants, merger and acquisitions consultants, and on and on. Other countries, including the UK, have opened the doors to such providers, and some states have relaxed or are looking at relaxing barriers on the consumer side of the market. I think the range of non-lawyer specialists that compete for law work will only become more extensive and more elite over time.”
This is an enormous issue, of course, and one that is best framed around both positive and normative analyses. I might quibble with the description as regulatory barriers being “largely papered over” — claims regarding the unauthorized practice of law don’t always fail, and there has been controversy stirred up by individuals and entities entering the so-called traditional lawyer space with various services (litigation involving Legal Zoom, for example, continues in various state courts). But the general point, that specialization in legal practice has and can drive legal generalists out of key parts of the market, seems surely right as a descriptive matter. The normative implications, to say, the obvious are controversial and fascinating.
I’m very pleased to share with you today’s announcement of the Robin Chemers Neustein Law School Visiting Professorship. Robin earned her JD-MBA from Northwestern in 1979; she serves on the Board of Trustees and is a great friend of the University and the Law School.
Her gift allows us to bring noteworthy visiting scholars to the Law School. The first of these is Morton Horwitz, Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History Emeritus at Harvard Law. Morton is the author of a very important book, The Transformation of American Law, 1780–1860—which won the 1978 Bancroft Prize. He also wrote The Transformation of American Law, 1970–1960: The Crisis of Legal Orthodoxy and The Warren Court and the Pursuit of Justice. These works secured his place as a leading scholar of American Legal History.
This semester he will teach a seminar entitled American Legal History: the Warren Court, and, together with Professor Nadav Shoked, a course on the History of Economic Regulation. He is a terrific addition to our community of scholars, and as it happens, several of us on the faculty—myself, Nadav, and Stephen Presser—studied with Morton, back in the day, at Harvard.
Morton is the first of many extraordinary scholars we will bring to Northwestern Law as a result of Robin’s generosity. Her gift will enrich our teaching and scholarship in innumerable ways.
Is the focus of these two recent articles, one from WSJ law blog and the other from ABA journal. The basic takeaway is that corporations are decreasing meaningfully their spend on outside law firm work and are handling much more of it internally.
Interesting quantitative analyses raise further questions: Is this driven solely by economic considerations and, if so, what will outside law firms do to respond to these choices? Are there kinds of matters which corporations are looking afresh at in-sourcing? In other words, are there non-economic considerations underlying these strategies? And will these developments impact the hiring of new law graduates, as law firms face the challenge of providing added value through assignment to freshly-minted associates? Further, will they impact law school curriculum (perhaps by encouraging law schools to focus more squarely on training for in-house law careers)?
These are hard questions, and not new ones. But the brute facts of legal in-sourcing bring these complex matters into ever-sharper relief.
We have a number of significant events coming up this week at Northwestern Law.
On Thursday evening, we will be launching the public phase of our comprehensive funding campaign. We will join with over 200 alumni, faculty, students, staff, and friends to celebrate NU Law and to look ahead to our great fundraising objectives. Please check out the Law School’s campaign website for up-to-date information about our campaign. (And, of course, news about our campaign will be featured on this blog).
On Friday, we will honor a number of distinguished law alumni at our second annual awards ceremony. We are especially pleased to welcome home Justice John Paul Stevens.
That same day, we will meet with our Law Board, the alumni advisor group to the Law School. I look forward to updating this group about the progress of our strategic plan.
On Friday afternoon and through Saturday, we will host our all-alumni weekend, with several programs and panels and also a Q & A session with me about the Law School. Finally, on Saturday night, we will celebrate with many alumni their reunions. We welcome back all our alumni from Chicago and around the world.
International law and law and economics expert, and one of my colleagues here at Northwestern Law, Eugene Kontorovich has been tracking the phenomenon of “gaolbalization” for a few years now. Earlier this week he published an update on The Volokh Conspiracy that is well worth a read.