The “New Dean,” One Year Later
With the completion of my first
graduation, I am told that I am no longer the “New
Dean.” The question I have been asked more
than any other at the various alumni events I
have attended across the country and overseas
during my first year as dean is: How is The George
Washington University Law School different from
other law schools with which I am familiar? There
are a number of aspects to my answer, but the
core of the answer is always the same—what
distinguishes our Law School most in my mind
is the nature of the community that we have built
and that we continue to build every day.
The basis of that community is our law students,
and GW Law students are remarkable! When I say
this, I am not just referring to their extraordinary
qualifications and accomplishments.
The truly remarkable thing about GW Law students
is the way in which they engage with the school
on so many levels. They are accomplished students
and scholars in the classroom, skilled practitioners
in the clinics and moot court programs, and concerned
citizens in response to such causes as the
need to resettle students from New Orleans area
law schools to our school this past fall.
The myriad student organizations and activities
are truly astounding—we have more than
50 student organizations and more events held
each week than any one person could attend. Moreover,
the quality of student-led events is such that
there is often no clear line between the curricular
Let me give just a few recent examples.
Our Human Rights Society hosted a Conference
on Poverty and Human Rights, receiving our
award for an Outstanding Student-Organized
Event for the 2005-06 academic year. This
conference explored the relationship between
poverty and human rights from a variety of
perspectives. I was particularly pleased
to have been a participant in this conference.
The International Law Society hosted a weeklong
set of conferences that attracted students
from surrounding law schools and other GW
graduate programs. The conferences related
to all areas and facets of the international
law practice and included dynamic panel discussions,
law firm tours, and visits to the U.S. State
Department and the World Bank.
The Human Rights Law Society and our International
Human Rights Clinic hosted a ground-breaking
event titled, “Voices of Guantanamo,” where
former detainees and experts discussed the conditions
and legal issues related to detainees held at
the American naval base at Guantanamo. This event
received national coverage on C-SPAN and was
as professionally produced as any prime time
truly remarkable thing about GW Law
students is the way in which they engage
with the school on so many levels.
They are accomplished students and
scholars in the classroom, skilled
practitioners in the clinics and moot
court programs, and concerned citizens
in response to such causes as the need
to resettle students from New Orleans
area law schools to our school this
At the same time, our students maintain a wonderful
perspective on the law school experience. Too
often law students today will adopt a tough
affect as if that is what it must mean to
be an attorney. I am proud that with all
their accomplishments, our students are also
people who know how to take time to relax.
I like to say that the GW student is someone
who knows how to work seriously without taking
him or herself too seriously.
Last month was my first “Deans’ Jeans
Day,” which, for those of you who are unfamiliar
with the occasion, is a kind of afternoon carnival
in the University Yard right outside our buildings.
On this day the faculty, staff, and students
alike participate in good-natured athletic competitions,
and the dean, wearing the obligatory blue jeans,
helps to serve hamburgers and hot dogs.
I think it is fair to say that at a great number
of American law schools, students, and faculties
would not feel comfortable kicking back in
this way. Of course there is nothing about
the ability to relax as a community that
is inconsistent with an active and robust
academic community and a serious and rigorous
training ground for new lawyers. In fact,
I believe that this sense of balance is essential
to a healthy life and a successful and satisfying
Let me conclude these reflections on my first
year with one additional observation that has
struck me this year. To be sure we have issues
that we must address, but I am aware on a daily
basis of our “non-problems,” that
is, the issues that do give rise to problems
at other laws schools that we do not have here.
Let me just cite two. Ours is a very large school.
We provide more than 500 courses to roughly 1,800
JD and LLM students taught by a full-time faculty
of nearly 90 and an adjunct faculty of some 250.
We select an entering class of approximately
500 students from well over 10,000 applicants,
each of whom submits a file that is reviewed
in the admissions office. Yet this large operation
runs remarkably smoothly thanks to a dedicated
and very talented staff. Today, I can say with
pride that the needs of the students and faculty
in the operation of the Law School are met and
met very well. But I do not take this for granted,
and I am grateful for this “non-problem.”
The other “non-problem” to which
I refer concerns our relations with the central
University. Let me state it clearly, they are
more than just cordial—they are collegial
and supportive. I know this may come as a surprise
to some of you, but this refers to a wide range
of issues including allocation of resources,
interdisciplinary programs, and the possibility
of establishing a Law School dorm in the near
future, about which I hope to share more soon.
Community and Collegiality…What an outstanding
view from the Dean’s office!
This has been a great first year for me as
dean at GW Law. I consider it a great honor
and privilege to serve as your dean, and
I hope that all of us at the Law School will
continue to earn your trust and support in
our future endeavors. Thank you for all that
you have done to support us. Thank you even
more for all that you may yet do. Together
there is no limit to what we can yet accomplish
at our Law School.
Frederick M. Lawrence
and Robert Kramer Research Professor of Law