I was pleased to speak before a reception at Northwestern Law organized by the Hispanic Bar Association of Illinois. Kudos to Quarles & Brady for their help in sponsoring this gathering.
I commented about what I see to be some sobering implications of the structural changes in the legal employment market on the fate of minority lawyers, especially those just beginning their profession. Some of the specific threats include the turning away from mentoring of young lawyers of color as the demands of clients and the economic bottom line of large and, perhaps especially, small, law firms increase. Mentoring, along with pro bono service, becomes viewed as a luxury when firms face economic pressures. That has become a common result in recessionary periods; and there is every reason to believe that this will be a consequence of more structural adjustments.
Moreover, the declining job market impacts — in many cases, imperils — opportunities for students without dependable financial means. To be more blunt, growing student debt affects those most vulnerable in the economic shakeout. The imperative of dealing with student debt and the high costs of legal education is a matter of increasing attention and properly so. I only offer, in what I hope is a rather obvious way, the thought that this acute condition impacts in particular ways students of color. Thus, the diversity of the legal profession is one more thing at stake when we consider reform.
No magic answer to the problem, to be sure. But there is a great value to acknowledging that this is a potential problem and that solving it requires strategic choices and constructive partnerships between the academy and the bar.
Am visiting San Diego for two reasons: First is to participate in Northwestern’s annual Securities Regulation Institute. This is one of the premier gatherings of leading securities lawyers and public officials. Programing is rich and substantial, with panels on, for example, M&A trends and developments, overview of the current capital markets, and preparing for the 20130 IP–Impact of the JOBS Act. The Institute is simply first rate.
Second, we are gathering with San Diego-area law alums to chat about the school and to get reacquainted. We will be meeting at Sora Restaurant on 655 W. Broadway tonight at 6 p.m. in case anyone wants to come by.
With the wind chill temperature in Chicago at -9 currently, I take back all my gloating in my December post about warm winters and how I was a good luck charm.
Mea culpa, Mr. Frosty.
As we celebrate MLK day, I would urge readers to reflect on the contributions legal educators and their students — at Northwestern and other law schools — have made to the legacy of Dr. King. We are in the justice business, after all. Our profession demands scrupulous attention to the rule of law and to promoting equal justice under the law. Hard to see this as anything but rather banal in the face of client service, billable hours, and other severe demands of the day-to-day practice of law. Yet, law schools are the place for deep, sustained reflection, nested in a coherent training program, on what it means to strive through our work for equal justice. Out from under the particulars of our law school curriculum, we ask in myraid ways the question “what is the purpose of law?” Dr. King and so many others understood this in idealistic terms. The purpose centrally is to develop structures, instiutions, and rules to implement ordered liberty, to safeguard civil rights, and to facilitate and maintain justice for all individuals.
The “purpose” question can also be understood in quite practical terms. And so we as legal educators work on our teaching, our research, and our service to carry out specific, constructive strategies to realize the aims of law and the legal profession. We frequently fail, to be sure. And the demands of the profession crowd out the larger matters which undergird our central objectives. But, on this day of remembrance, we should remember why the legal profession plays such a central role in contemporary society and why legal education ought to be focused on justice considerations, that is, on the objectives that were so powerfully reflected in Dr. King’s life and achievements. Moreover, we should commit ourselves to making real improvements in this vein in both the profession and the academy.
. . . excitement about what lurks ahead of us. We have a number of significant events and programs at the Law School. I urge you to check the Law School calendar for specific information.
For those of who completing your law studies this semester, I hope you see light at the end of the tunnel. There are difficult dynamics in the contemporary legal marketplace to be sure, but I trust that you will put your excellent Northwestern education to fruitful use in your legal career. For those who continue to work hard on securing employment following graduation, please do work with our Career Strategy office. They are here to help you.
For those who are beginning their second semester at Northwestern, congratulations on the successful completion of your first semester of law school. You have turned an important page and we wish you the best as you move to the next challenge.
And best wishes, of course, to all the rest of you, wherever you are in your Northwestern career. We all have much to be grateful for as we begin 2013. I know I am grateful for the opportunity to lead this terrific law school and to work with this remarkable community on improving legal education and in tacklng the challenges facing us in this complex legal economy.
Happy New Year to readers!
Returning to blogging after short holiday hiatus.
I am writing from New Orleans, where the Association of American Law Schools is holding its annual meeting.
Be on the lookout for recent and new posts on legal education, as well as the other eclectic content that makes up “Word on the Streeterville” version 2013.