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By Michael K. Young

Beyond Tradition

Conventional wisdom and all the greeting card companies suggest wood and decorative accessories for the home are the fitting gifts to recognize the fifth year of marital union. They are somehow also fitting symbols for my fifth-year anniversary as dean of this extraordinary Law School. By the end of this five-year period, we will have renovated all of our classrooms from top to bottom, installed cutting edge digital and computer technology in all of the classrooms and everywhere else, added 14 additional classrooms, more than doubled the student lounge and study space, added more than 50 new offices, and expanded the Law School's total physical space by almost 40 percent! And, as we showed you last issue, our newly renovated Jacob Burns Moot Court Room is one of the most beautiful and certainly the most technologically advanced courtrooms in the entire country.

But like any good marriage, the external physical structure only makes a house. What takes place on the inside is what makes it a home. And what an amazing home we are.

I have bragged about our students before—and will again. For the fifth year in a row, we will enjoy a double-digit percentage increase in the number of applicants. More than 11,500 applications for the Class of 2006 have been received, and that suggests our mean LSAT may rise another full point, the fourth such increase in as many years.

The diversity of our student body is also truly breathtaking. They come from virtually every state in the Union. They represent more than 50 foreign countries. They have studied everything from political science and economics to marine biology and solid-state physics. Literature students sit next to computer scientists and art majors lunch with mathematicians. And we have the largest percentage of African-American students of any major law school in the country.

But it is the faculty that gives this institution purpose and direction and sense of multi-level community. The faculty remains among the very best in the country, and we continue to attract extraordinary professors from major law schools all over the country. Professor John Duffy, a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Scalia and a nationally recognized specialist in intellectual property and administrative law, will join us this fall from William and Mary Law School and the University of Chicago, where he is currently visiting. Tom Colby will also join us as a new professor after a very successful stint as a law clerk to Justice Souter and as a Bigelow Fellow at the University of Chicago.

These two professors will join a faculty that is simply dazzling in its capacity to teach. Twenty years ago, the students rated the faculty on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best, at about 3.3 on average. Pretty good. But this past semester, our faculty—both full and part time—averaged 4.4 on that same scale! And considering how feisty and outspoken our current crop of students is, I do not suspect any grade inflation on their part.

It is not the Law School that has so much changed its direction or activities as the fact that the world has finally come to understand the importance, indeed the economic and political centrality, of the fields in which we have always been strong.

But, if anything can exceed our faculty's exceptional capacity to teach, it is the breadth of our faculty intellectually. As we mentioned in the last issue of this magazine, our faculty takes its advice and counsel not only into the halls of Congress, the White House, government agencies of all stripes, and corporate corridors all over the country, but they are much in demand internationally as well. Nine of our professors are currently advising China as that country reforms its legal system. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

During the past year alone, I have tracked faculty members to half a dozen countries in Asia and Latin America, to more than a dozen countries on the continent, and to Africa, South Asia, and even to the Antarctic. Our government contracting specialists are in demand everywhere. After all, government procurement comprises as much as 25 to 40 percent of the GDP of many countries. As countries join the World Trade Organization, they increasingly realize that the rules governing such contracts must be brought into conformity with world standards. And they come to our faculty to learn what those standards are. Our extraordinary clinical programs are likewise serving as models for law schools in countries as far flung as China and France. Our professors are helping to re-write the evidence and criminal procedure codes of China, train defense attorneys in that same country, and fashion adequate competition policy laws in Mongolia and South Africa. And the list could go on and on.

It is perhaps on this score, as much as any other, that we see the remarkable growth in influence of your Law School. Let me give you just one example, among many I could give. During the past two months alone, I personally have traveled more than 30,000 miles for our intellectual property programs. I was in Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, and finally Munich. In every city, universities, professional associations, and government agencies are lining up to develop some relationship with our school and its world-class intellectual property law program.

We have now confirmed the international primacy of that program with an arrangement we just concluded with the world-famous Max Planck Institute in Munich, Germany. Starting this fall, our Law School and the Max Planck Institute will jointly offer, in English, a master's degree in international intellectual property. And this is just the next step in a collaboration that goes back four years, when we first enticed Professor Joseph Straus, now the director of the Intellectual Property Law Program of the Max Planck Institute, to visit our Law School on a regular basis. Professor Straus, Europe's leading specialist on biotechnology, now co-teaches a course every year at the Law School, along with the co-director of our Intellectual Property Law Program, Professor Martin Adelman. From that collaboration grew this joint master's degree program, soon to be followed by faculty and student exchanges and collaborative research. We are also in the process of creating similar arrangements with other universities around the world, particularly in Tokyo.

One might view all this as a dramatic expansion of programs and activities at the Law School. And, in some ways, it is certainly that.

At the same time, however, one can plausibly view this dramatic national and international engagement of our faculty as merely a manifestation that the world has finally caught up with us. This Law School, more than any in the world, has long known the importance of intellectual property, as well as government contracting. Indeed, our professors literally invented the latter field as a distinct intellectual discipline. We created the first environmental law program in the country. And our clinics have been leaders in vision and foresight.

In other words, we have long been one of the truly great law schools in the world, training this and other nation's leaders and leading in disciplines that have been of vital importance to our nation's economy and its politics. It is not the Law School that has so much changed its direction or activities as the fact that the world has finally come to understand the importance, indeed the economic and political centrality, of the fields in which we have always been strong. It is not so much that the GW Law School has developed into an institution of such national and international prominence. Rather, the nation and the world have finally progressed enough to take advantage of the exceptional resources we have to offer.

So, while Hallmark tells me that this anniversary is wood and household accessories, I know instead that this anniversary is, in fact, gold and silver. For that is what the students and faculty of this Law School truly represent. And this is long what this great Law School has produced in its alumni. The only real difference in the past five years is that the rest of the world has finally figured that out.

Michael K. Young
Dean and Lobingier Professor of Comparative Law and Jurisprudence

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