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Advice to college presidents

from the always-interesting Bill Henderson at Indiana:

Maybe it’s just me, but the essay reminded me of Woody Allen and Annie Hall:  Commenting on their relationship, and noting that a shark must keep moving or die, Annie (or was it Woody?) says “what we have here is a dead shark.”

Great law schools, like sharks, always keep moving.


NU graduation highlights

The Chicago Theater was the venue for a great convocation ceremony yesterday afternoon.

I congratulated our graduates, thanked them for all their contributions to our community, and spoke briefly what it means to be “ready.”  NU’s president, Morty Schapiro, spoke about the importance of friendship and of maintaining friendships forged in law school in the face of the business of ordinary life.

At many times in the ceremony, we remembered our beloved colleague, Dawn Clark Netsch ’52, who we lost earlier this year.  In one of the especially moving parts of the convocation, Dawn’s nephew, Sandy Kerr, accepted the Childress teaching award, an award whose recipient is selected by the graduating students, on Dawn’s behalf posthumously.  Sandy also presented the student awards, including the Wigmore Key (to Timothy Fry).

Our convocation speaker was Mark Walter ’85.  Mark is the principal owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and is a principal in Guggenheim Partners.  He provided remarks on the value of law school, putting in special context the story of how he and his partners recently came to own the Dodgers (paying a record-setting amount for what has emerged as an fertile investment).

For me, a highlight of the ceremony were the two speeches of our students, a JD and LLM graduate.  Jeff Van Dam and Sergio Herrera gave interesting, humorous remarks about their experiences at Northwestern.  Both emphasized in their own ways how remarkable a group of students we have at Northwestern and how the best of NU Law is found in these incredible students.

(I must also mention that Jeff, referring to comments I made in my remarks about my dog, Rico Sauve, said that he knows my dog and that “Rico is a terrific individual”).  Can’t top that!

Thanks to all who made this graduation such a meaningful event for friends and family, for faculty and administrators.  And best of luck to the Class of 2013.  Make us all proud!


Graduation 2013!

I am proud and excited to preside over the convocation for our esteemed Northwestern Law class of 2013.

To the students:  congratulations and Godspeed.

The the faculty and staff:  thanks for all you have done to bring our students to this great day.

To the family and friends:  congrats to you also and thanks, on behalf of our students, for all you have done to prepare and support these terrific individuals.



NU Law receives a $3 million gift for a faculty chair

Northwestern Law School is pleasured to announce that Howard and Elizabeth “Betsy” Chapman have made a $3 million gift to establish a chaired professorship in their name.   “This is an important gift,” said Dean Daniel Rodriguez. “The Chapman’s generosity helps further our goal of recruiting and retaining an exemplary group of scholars and teachers. We are extremely grateful for this vote of confidence in our bold ambitions, especially in the business law area.”

Howard’s understanding of the importance of legal and regulatory structures on the business community was instrumental to establishing this professorship. This understanding was the result of a life of practice in banking and finance, corporate, and real estate law.

Howard attended Northwestern University on an academic scholarship. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1956 and went from there to the Law School—again on an academic scholarship—where he was an associate editor of the Northwestern University Law Review and was elected to the Order of the Coif.

Howard and Betsy met at Northwestern, which she attended from 1953 to 1955. They married in 1955. Following Howard’s graduation from the Law School in 1958, they moved to her hometown, Fort Wayne, Indiana, where Howard began his long and distinguished career in the law.

In 1958 Howard joined Shoaff, Keegan & Baird; he became a partner in 1963. In 1970, he helped establish the firm of Bonahoom, Chapman & McNellis, which merged in 1986 with Barrett, Barrett and McNagny to form Barrett & McNagny, one of Indiana’s largest law practices. He was a partner at that firm until he became Of Counsel in 2003. Howard served as president of the Allen County Bar Association, and on the boards of the Waterfield Mortgage Company and the Union Federal Bank of Indianapolis.

Betsy, an accomplished musician, has performed at the Arena Theatre, the Fort Wayne Youtheatre, and the First Presbyterian Theatre. She earned a degree in English from Indiana University-Purdue in 1974. She has coauthored three musical plays for children, which have been performed nationally, and she has served on the boards of numerous community and charitable organizations, including the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre, and Arts United of Allen County.

Together, the Chapmans have a distinguished history of giving and volunteering. They established the Howard and Betsy Chapman Law Scholarship Fund to support students at the Law School, as well as the Chapman Scholars program and the Chapman Distinguished Professorship in the Department of English and Linguistics at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. Howard served on a Law School Reunion Committee, and as an officer, director, and committee member of many civic and charitable organizations in Indiana.

Their philanthropy is not limited to Northwestern; they support organizations including the Community Harvest Food Bank, Purdue University, the First Presbyterian Church in Fort Wayne, and the United Way.

Howard is thankful for the scholarships that made it possible for him to attend Northwestern. Through their philanthropy, Howard and Betsy support the work of the next generation of scholars and students.


To Washington and New York City this week

Opportunities to meet with alums and also to gather with friends at the inaugural NYC club cocktail party.  Here are the current details from Terese Molinaro in our Alumni Relations office:

  • Inaugural Cocktail Party – Thursday, May 9

The Northeast corridor — Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington DC — remains a fertile, vital place for Northwestern Law graduates.  We have long recruited well from this part of the nation and we have sent eastward many hundreds of alumni to great positions in both the private and public sector.

We urge our NU Law grads to connect with other grads in these areas.  The NYC and Washington clubs are especially useful venues to network and schmooze.


On the perils of “one size fits all” metrics

Yesterday, I posted on the employment measures issue and the Northwestern advantage.  The focus was, naturally, on our law school; however, there is general point embedded in my comment which I would like to make more explicit:  Efforts to rank schools on a narrow set of criteria have the unavoidable flaw of conflating a number of factors into a “one size fits all” rubric.  Obvious point, to be sure, but one that bears notice when we hop on — even if briefly — into one or another ranking fad.

Consider the Above the Law rankings of law schools by employment, now enjoying its fifteen minutes of fame in the blogosophere.  The measure here is a job for which a JD is required.  I have already spoken about how this undervalues Northwestern.  The difficulty which the rankings cuts deeper, however.  There are surely law schools which produce students who have a range of choices in non-legal settings — not necessarily because that is the focus of a specific element of the program (as it is with the JD/MBA program at Northwestern and some other schools), but because the market in the area where many of the students congregate has a particularly robust employment situation there.  For example, Loyola L.A. law school has a well-regarded sports & entertainment law focus.  Surely there are positions in the sports & entertainment world in So Cal, some positions non-legal, available for grads of Loyola.  On the other end of the country, NGO’s and other organizations in the nation’s capital might provide employment opportunities for so-called “non-elite” schools in Washington DC and the Northeast corrider.

Law students go to law school to practice law, the editors of ATL proclaim.  Surely there is much to that slogan.  But law students go to particular law schools for a myriad of reasons.  The central choices about law school versus not-law school involve not only considerations of whether lucrative legal employment beacons, but about what is the tradeoff between pursuing a legal education for the purpose of advancing one’s employment goals in a broader sense and saving this money, creating credentials of different sorts, and entering the non-legal job market in earnest.

To be sure, many (perhaps even most) of these pursuits will be a second best, and maybe a distant one, to legal employment.  And I make no pronouncements here at all about whether the investment is or is not worth it.  That’s an important conversation, but a different one.  Rather, the question here is whether efforts to craft a ranking that is centered on employment measures captures either the objectives of one or another law school on the one hand and the objectives of law students who will consider going to that law school on the other.

U.S. News rankings, for all their many, many flaws, looks at a wide variety of factors.  And, with respect to employment, captures a larger set of criteria (although it would be more useful if Bob Morse were more transparent about the exact criteria).  Efforts to shoehorn one key criterion — in the case of ATL, employment in legal jobs — conveys misinformation and foments, rather than alleviates, confusion.


Non-legal careers and the Northwestern advantage

When evaluating employment outcomes, much of the talk in the media and blogosphere has focused solely on positions that require a law degree and/or bar passage, implying that these are the only positions relevant to prospective law students or desirable for law school graduates.  A recent ranking featured on Above the Law specifically disparaged non-legal jobs, saying that such non-legal jobs are, as the verse goes, “butchers, or bakers, or candle-stick makers.”  Whatever merits such a description has for law schools whose graduates pursue non-legal careers not equivalent in any significant sense to purely jobs, this is not a fair or accurate way to measure Northwestern.  Eliminating non-legal employment from the equation, as the ATL ranking, extensive commentary by the Law School Transparency Project, and observations elsewhere conspicuous in the media and blogosphere, is not appropriate in the case of Northwestern.  Doing so fails to capture the uniqueness of our program and to account for our many graduates who, by choice, seek and obtain prestigious jobs in the business sector.

Take, for example, our renowned JD-MBA program.

Lawyers in the modern economy increasingly are called upon to work across international jurisdictions, to develop responsible practices within complex regulatory frameworks, and to lead multi-disciplinary teams. In 2001, Northwestern Law School, together with the Kellogg School of Management, created the nation’s first 3-year JD-MBA program as one way to meet this emerging need. With approximately 25 graduates each year, it is now the largest and most successful program of its kind.  Its alumni number almost 500 and most now occupy leadership positions at law firms, businesses, and nonprofits.  And many began their careers in business, not law.

When they graduate, half of our JD-MBA students pursue law-related jobs and half pursue jobs in business – most often in high-paying and highly-coveted jobs with prominent consulting firms, accounting firms, investment banks, venture capital firms, and other well-known corporations (sometimes referred to as “JD Advantage” positions).  Those who decide on legal practice are sought by many of the nation’s leading law firms because of their expanded education and perspectives and their previous management experience.  In some cases, our JD-MBA students ultimately decide between options and offers from employers in both sectors. Nearly every year, even during the downturn, 100% of the program’s graduates have secured permanent employment within 9 months of graduation.

The JD-MBA students who embark on business-related careers–where a JD might not be specifically required, but is nonetheless invaluable–comprise about 5% of our total graduates each year (6% in 2012).  Further, because of our strong relationship with the Kellogg School of Management and the synergies that exist for all students, another 3%-4% of our overall JD students typically succeed in obtaining similar jobs immediately upon graduation.  Therefore, any attempts by external sources to compare law schools solely on jobs that require a law degree fail to capture this sizeable and highly successful cohort of students.

Here are some examples:  During the past three years, our JD-MBA graduates accepted positions at companies such as Altman Vilandrie & Company, AON, Bain & Company, Barclays Capital, Boston Consulting Group, Cerberus Capital Management, Citi, Deutsche Bank, Driehaus Capital Management, Glencore International, Goldman Sachs, Harvard Management Company, Intercontinental Hotels, Lazard Middle Market, L.E.K. Consulting, Marakon, McKinsey & Company, Metropolitan Bank, Monitor Group, Morgan Stanley, Pacific Alternative Asset Management Company (PAAMCO), PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Siemens Energy, Solar Capital, SumZero, Tishman Speyer, TomorrowVentures, Vitera Healthcare Solutions, William Blair, and UBS.

It is equally important to consider career trajectory – not just the first job – for history shows that great success lies ahead for most who obtain a Northwestern JD or JD-MBA.  Focusing solely on our JD-MBA alumni, here is a sampling of what some of them are doing now.

–           49 law firm partners

–           55 law firm associates

–           37 Corporate Counsel (Assistant, Associate General Counsel, Corporate Counsel, Tax Counsel)

–           46 Presidents, CEOs, Chairmen, Owners, Founders

–           75 Vice Presidents, Managing Directors, Managing Partners, Principals, CFOs, COOs, CIOs, etc.

–           32 Unit/Department Directors or Executive Directors

–           5 Professors

–           1 Mayor

–           1 Judge

So is non-legal employment relevant at Northwestern Law?  Absolutely.  Our many students and alumni who have secured these kinds of jobs would agree.  That’s the Northwestern advantage and that’s something to compare.