As Seen By The Dean
GW Law Briefs

Public Interest Corner
International Update
GW Law Welcomes New Faculty Members
International Update
Faculty File

Alumni Events
Law Newsmakers


Contact Us
Alumni Association
Law Alumni Association
GW News Center

As Seen by the Dean

photo of Dean Young

First Reflections

A lawyer friend of mine always said, “When you negotiate a deal, it’s never better than it first looks. They are never holding back any of the good stuff!” When I think about my decision to join The George Washington University Law School as dean, my friend was wrong. The deal has, in fact, been better than I could have known.

The reason the deal now looks better than when I negotiated it is that there are things I have learned about our alumni, our students, and our faculty since becoming dean that have impressed me beyond my already high opinion of this Law School formed over my many years in the law community. In this, my first dean’s message, I would like to share with you some of what it is I have learned about our Law School in my first three months at the helm.

Before becoming dean I was aware that the GW Law alumni included leaders of all branches of government, federal and state, as well as leaders of the bar in many fields. What I have learned since becoming dean is that besides being accomplished professionals, our alumni are deeply dedicated to their school and remain committed members of the GW Law community. The hallmark of many, many conversations with alumni, beginning my very first week as dean, has been hearing, “Dean, how can I help?” I cannot tell you how much it means to a new dean joining a faculty to receive this kind of support from the school’s alumni. These early impressions were richly confirmed in October over our reunion weekend during which hundreds of GW Law alumni returned to our school. These alumni, along with the members of our wonderful volunteer leadership boards—the Board of Advisors, the Board of Directors of the Alumni Association, and the Intellectual Property Advisory Board—spent several days in meetings and receptions. The energy level during the weekend was both infectious and inspirational. I believe that all in attendance were impressed by our newly renovated facilities as well as by the dedication of our professional staff who organized the series of events throughout the weekend. There is great satisfaction to be taken from all that we have accomplished, and I know that there is great excitement about all that we will yet achieve.

I consider myself most fortunate that as a new dean I am a successor to the distinguished deans who have gone before me.

Before becoming dean, I knew that GW Law students were a bright and capable group. One need only look at such objective measures as composite LSAT scores and grade point averages to know this. What I have learned since I became dean is that beyond being bright and capable, our students are fine people. They are the kind of students you would like, they will be the kind of lawyers you would trust, and they are the kind of people you would admire. I have observed this both in my own section of criminal law that I am teaching this fall and in the student body generally whom I have met as dean. Perhaps the best illustration of the quality of the character of our student body is its response to Hurricane Katrina. As discussed in more detail in the article on page 28 in this issue, in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, our Law School, like many law schools, agreed to admit a number of students from Tulane Law School and Loyola of New Orleans Law School as visiting students. In fact, we admitted 14 students altogether, including an LLM student in international law along with second- and third-year JD students. Prior to the arrival of our visitors from New Orleans, our GW Law students arranged for class notes to be taken and for student mentors to be available for the visiting students. Moreover, more than 120 students volunteered emergency housing for our visitors as well as 18 others from the Law School community, vastly exceeding the need. In every way, our students have sought to make the Katrina evacuees feel comfortable here at GW. Finally, our students have raised nearly $10,000 that will be donated to Habitat for Humanity to provide housing for families in the affected Gulf Coast region. I have assured them that the Law School will match the funds that they have raised. It is my great pleasure to do so. I know that you as alumni will be as proud of our students as I am as their dean.

Before becoming dean, I knew of the scholarly reputation of the GW Law faculty. As a law professor for the past 17 years, I had read books and articles by GW Law faculty members and heard them speak at conferences around the country. Since becoming dean, I have learned that these well-regarded scholars are also deeply dedicated teachers who are devoted to the overall law school community. It is all too easy for talented scholars to turn inward and focus primarily or even exclusively on their scholarship. I am delighted that my colleagues, though taking a back seat to no one as scholars, understand that the core mission of our Law School is and will remain the training of young lawyers. Indeed, it is our great privilege as GW Law faculty to play a key role in producing the leaders of the bench and bar of the 21st century. I appreciate my colleagues’ support in this mission and I admire their dedication and their commitment.

I consider myself most fortunate that as a new dean I am a successor to the distinguished deans who have gone before me. I am only the fourth person to become the permanent dean of this school in the last 25 years. Deans Jerome Barron and Jack Friedenthal, still productive scholars and dedicated teachers on our faculty, are not only an inspiration to me but are a valued source of advice and counsel. My immediate predecessor, President Michael K. Young of the University of Utah, has been a generous adviser as well. All three have taken our law school to new heights during their tenures as dean. As I chart the coming years at GW Law, I have a set of short- and long-term goals that I look forward to accomplishing together.

Among our first orders of business will be adding to the faculty endowment funds that we currently have so that we will be able to retain the outstanding faculty that we now have and attract scholars and teachers of equal caliber in the months and years ahead. Specifically, I aim to add at least five endowed faculty chairs over the next five years. Moreover, we will augment our student scholarship funds such that no student who is able to meet the exacting standards for admission to our law school will be unable to attend for financial reasons. Our long-term goals include yet additional faculty endowment and scholarship funds as well as the next stage in the development of our facilities, namely a new library/learning center and a residence hall. Even these long-term goals must be part of our short-term planning. I already know that I can count on the support of our alumni in achieving these goals.

It is no overstatement to say that GW Law School has become one of this nation’s premier law schools. Our location in the heart of the nation’s capitol, along with all of the wonderful attributes of our law school community that I have just discussed, make our potential literally limitless.

Henry David Thoreau said, “In the long run, men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, they had better aim at something high.” I urge you to join me as we aim very high. We have accomplished great things at our Law School. With your help we will accomplish greater things still.

Frederick M. Lawrence
Dean and Robert Kramer Research Professor of Law