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On the law school “brain drain”

Smart post by Prof. Muller at Pepperdine.

He points out that the current data shows that the principal brain drain is at the lower end of the LSAT distribution.  For the most competitive students, including students who will be competitive at Northwestern and certain other schools, there has in fact been a slight to moderate uptick in the percentage of these students applying to law school.

None of this contradicts the central fact that law school applications are down nationwide, but it does illustrate the utility of more fine-grained data as we consider these matters.


Law dean appointed to criminal justice role

At the instigation of Northwestern’s Locke Bowman and the MacArthur Justice Center.



Justice John Paul Stevens Wants to Change the Constitution

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the swearing-in ceremony for 40 new Northwestern Law alumni members of the Supreme Court Bar. Carter Phillips, JD ’77, one of the stars of the appellate bar (who recently argued his 77th case before the Supreme Court), led the ceremony.  It was a wonderful event and I was proud to be there.

In chatting with these distinguished Northwestern Law alumni, I was reminded of another—retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (JD ’47) who recently wrote an interesting book, Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution. It won’t be on sale until April 22, 2014, but it is already lighting up the blogosphere. ThinkProgress reported on Justice Stevens’ call for an amendment to prevent gerrymandering rather gloomily: “…the Republican Party has six very good reasons not to support an anti-gerrymandering amendment…” Breitbart hastened to illustrate the error of Justice Stevens’ thinking about the Second Amendment by explaining that “…The rights protected by the Second Amendment are individual rights, as are the rights that are protected, but not created, by the First, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments…” These are but two examples of how people are reacting to this book. I’m confident there will be many more, and I’m pleased to see it—we need robust public discussion on the essential issues of our own governance.

Congratulations to the newest members of the Supreme Court Bar, and to Justice Stevens on the book.



Kudos to Erin Delaney: 2014 MacCormick Visiting Fellowship at Edinburgh Law School

My colleague, Erin Delaney, was recently awarded a prestigious MacCormick Visiting Fellowship at Edinburgh Law School for her work on comparative constitutionalism. This Fellowship will allow her to expand her research on the United Kingdom and exchange ideas with her European colleagues. As part of the fellowship, she will teach a MacCormick Seminar on Constitutional Change in the United Kingdom at the Edinburgh Law School—a topic about which she also has a paper, “Judiciary Rising: Constitutional Change in the United Kingdom”—forthcoming in the Northwestern Law Review.

This is further evidence of the extraordinary strength of our constitutional law faculty, particularly in the emerging area of comparative constitutionalism.

The MacCormick Fellowships were created in honor of the memory of noted Philosophy of Law scholar Professor Sir Neil MacCormick, the Regius Professor of Public Law and the Law of Nature and Nations at the University of Edinburgh from 1972 to 2008. The program supports advanced research in legal studies and the international exchange of ideas.

Please join me in congratulating Erin, and wishing her the best of luck in Scotland.


Innovation in action: Student-run company to bring new cancer therapy to patients

On the heels of a very successful Entrepreneurship Law Center symposium last weekend comes news of a successful startup endeavor that involves two of our JD/MBA students.

John Kuelper and Matthew Rosenstock, both JD/MBA ’14, are two members of a six-person team that formed Orpheden Therapeutics, a company that is working on commercializing a therapy to stimulate an individual’s immune system to fight cancer. The therapy is based on research done by Alan M. Krensky, MD, of the Feinberg School of Medicine.

Orpheden Therapeutics is a finalist in the Business Plan phase of the Breast Cancer Startup Challenge. The idea behind this competition is that there is a lot of important research just sitting out there, currently not being developed but with tremendous potential. The Challenge creates an opportunity for teams to take unused patents and create a business plan that would bring the technology to market. The hope is that this effort will unlock some of this research so that it might benefit mankind.

The Business Plan is an early phase of the larger challenge. Because of their success at this level, Orpheden will be able to compete later in the year for up to $100,000 in venture capital funding.

Orpheden Therapeutics is a project of Northwestern’s Innovation and New Ventures Office, which brings together teams from different academic backgrounds to support and accelerate entrepreneurship. Six students compose the team: from the Law School, John and Matthew; from the Feinberg School of Medicine, Jonathan Bell, a MD/PhD candidate, and Mthabisi Moyo and Daniel Levine, both doctoral candidates; and from the Kellogg School of Management, Ronald Mantel, an MBA student.

John is the CEO of Orpheden. He is also a student in the Medical Innovation class, where he is a member of another team, one that is working on an ophthalmology device that simplifies the delivery of post-operative medications to cataract and other eye surgery patients.

These endeavors reinforce something unique to Northwestern: the inclusion of law students on these types of entrepreneurial teams. It might not be immediately obvious why it would be important to have law students on a team that works on cancer therapies or ophthalmological devices. But the fact is these therapies and devices are developed in a highly complex legal and regulatory environment. Many pitfalls lie along the road to commercialization, problems and delays can be avoided by people who understand the requirements. I know from talking with venture capitalists that they value teams that have people who understand intellectual property and regulatory requirements, and they value that expertise because it makes a difference to the bottom line.

Congratulations to John and Matthew and the other members of the Orpheden Therapeutics team, and best of luck in the venture capital round! I look forward to following your progress.


Center on Wrongful Convictions Women’s Project

A conference tomorrow, March 7, at the Northwestern Law School.

Check it out!


Competition in the new legal marketplace

from another prominent legal futurist, this time Jordan Furlong.

Two thoughts:

On the observation that regulation will wither away, this hasn’t been the path of legal change has predicted over many years.  Regulation in the legal profession (and in legal education) has proved remarkably resilient, even in the face of competitive pressures.  Just consider the stunning lack of bar reciprocity and also the various restrictions on pro se representation.  Or, in the law school context, the limitations on supervised student representation, even where there are enormous unmet legal needs.  So perhaps Furlong is right that regulation is under especially sustained assault and will crumble.  But we shouldn’t count our chickens.

On the “creating new markets” message:  yes indeed.  I have written about this elsewhere on this blog.  In the future — indeed, in the present — lawyers are entrepreneurs and regulatory engineers, business professionals and risk managers.  The business of lawyering is going through significant change, and how JD holders can deploy their skills to improve structures and institutions and business decision-making is an essential modern question.  Law is important for folks other than lawyers; and lawyers are important for business performance in spaces other than traditionally legal.


Legal future?

field trip report from Aric Press of the American Lawyer.

As one of our colleagues mentioned:  it is not clear why the innovation analogy to law and the modern legal profession is apt.  What underlies the claim, he asks, that law firms are too skittish or unimaginative to embrace technological innovation in their business models?  And, indeed, what is the evidence that such innovation has not in fact been embraced in key parts of the practice (e.g., the use of predictive analytics in discovery)?

All of which is to say that the debate about the dynamics of professional change is not one between the “futurists” and the “luddites,” but is actually much more nuanced and complex (and interesting!).


Chicago winter

enjoy this hilarious parody!


Battling Public Corruption

Professor Juliet Sorensen penned an opinion piece that is well worth a read: “Why Are Natural Disasters Breeding Grounds for Corruption?” It was published today on Talking Points Memo.

This is a subject on which she writes regularly. Another notable recent op-ed of hers was on the United Nation’s efforts to fight international corruption through the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which was published on Al Jazeera America.

Her writing is based, in part, on the work she does with her Northwestern students. I’m pleased to share with you here an excerpt from a forthcoming article about the exemplary work of students, faculty, and alumni involved with the Center for International Human Rights. The full article will appear next month in the Spring 2014 issue of the Northwestern Law Reporter:

In 2013 the Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Center for International Human Rights was granted consultative status with the United Nations, an accreditation held by only one other US law school, which allows nongovernmental, nonprofit public and voluntary organizations to play a role in UN deliberations. CIHR’s consultative status enabled clinical assistant professor Juliet Sorensen and two JD students—Akane Tsuruta (JD ’14) and Jessica Dwinell (JD-LLM IHR ’14)—to attend last November’s Conference of the State Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, held in Panama City.

As recently as 15 years ago bribery was regarded in many countries as a legitimate business practice, in some cases even a tax deduction allowed by law. It was not until 2003—when the Convention against Corruption was adopted by the UN General Assembly—that a legally binding international treaty to criminalize corporate bribery, extortion and embezzlement first emerged. As of February of this year, 170 countries have become parties to the treaty, and the Conference of the State Parties to the UNCAC has convened biennially to review signatories’ progress toward preventing corruption, improving international law enforcement and providing mechanisms for the treaty’s implementation.

Northwestern Law’s three delegates to last fall’s conference—the fifth to be held—worked closely with the UNCAC Coalition, a global coalition of anticorruption NGOs, attending plenary sessions and helping the organization to write articles. Tsuruta and Dwinell also blogged about conference proceedings for FCPA Professor, a widely followed online forum devoted to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other international anticorruption laws…

…With substantial input from Chicago law firm Baker & McKenzie, the Center for International Human Rights created a desk reference compendium on UNCAC compliance. Sorensen and her students analyzed data and assembled country-by-country documentation, working together with Baker & McKenzie partner Edwin R. Dunn (JD ’67), attorney Gerardo Calderon-Villegas (who also attended the UNCAC conference), and Bluhm Legal Clinic advisory board member Angela Vigil (JD ’95), who is Baker & McKenzie’s director of pro bono and community service for North America. The compendium was an essential resource for Northwestern Law’s UNCAC conference delegation and will continue to serve as a guide for future UNCAC compliance work.

“This valuable resource would not have been possible without the generosity and talent of Baker & McKenzie,” said Sorensen. “And each of us, regardless of the type of law we practice, can play a role in fighting corruption. As members of the bar, it is our responsibility to advise clients facing the gray areas of corruption to make honest, ethical decisions. In-house lawyers, corporate counsel and litigators—all can help.” –Erin Marks

I’m proud and appreciative of the extraordinary efforts of these members of the Northwestern Law community.