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Jessica McConnell

By President Steven Knapp

When I first arrived on campus three months ago, one of the buildings everyone told me I had to tour was the home of our School of Law on 20th Street between G and H. I had no idea at the time whether they meant I would be pleased or shocked; whether this was a handsomely renovated facility or a case of “deferred maintenance” that we would sooner or later need to correct.


President Knapp tours the Law School with Dean Frederick M. Lawrence in August.

Jessica McConnell

The answer was the former. In fact, as I was led by Dean Fred Lawrence and Senior Associate DeanTom Morrison through the paneled corridors that so beautifully connected what was formerly a series of separate buildings, visited the “smart” classrooms, and stood in the back of the magnificent moot courtroom, I thought with some envy about what it would be like to be a young student, just embarking on an exciting profession, in a space that so eloquently spoke of the dignity and history of my calling.

In the weeks that followed, as I learned about the school’s history and the achievements of its faculty, I realized how perfectly it exemplified the vision of The George Washington University that drew me to this institution. In my first few months here, I have been emphasizing three themes: GW as a university in and of the nation’s capital; our aspirations to grow ever stronger and more visible as a research university; and our efforts to engage alumni as we develop GW into a lifelong and worldwide community.

Our strategic location in the heart of this international city affords GW unrivaled opportunities to form partnerships with an extraordinary range of national and international institutions. The Law School has a long and distinguished record of such partnerships. Our students and the residents of the city have been well served during the 35-year history of the school’s clinical education program. Our adjunct faculty, numbering more than 250 accomplished attorneys and judges, enrich our programs and the experience of our students in countless ways. At the same time that it draws faculty from the institutions that surround it, the Law School reciprocates by sending our students out into some of the world’s most exciting workplaces, through “outplacement” and intern programs that connect them with agencies, law firms, and nongovernmental organizations in the District of Columbia and across the capital region.

When I speak of our aspirations to rise in the ranks of research universities, there is always a risk that the word “research” will conjure images of chemistry labs and engineering test beds. But what research really means is the enterprise of discovery that embraces all the fields of the University’s endeavors and that engages students in that exhilarating work. Here again, the Law School is at the forefront of our historic achievements and our future promise.

President Knapp addresses the Law School faculty during a faculty meeting in October.

Claire Duggan


GW Law has a strong faculty across the curriculum. We have received particular acclaim for our scholarship and teaching in the fields of intellectual property law, international and comparative law, environmental law, and constitutional and administrative law. Experts from our Law School are routinely called upon to comment or testify on our country’s most pressing legal issues. Additionally, we are recognized as the premier law school in the nation (and perhaps the world) in the area of government procurement law. The Creative and Innovative Economy Center, focusing on the role of the rule of law in the global economy, is an outstanding example of the ways in which we are developing models with international power and scope. The Law School is committed to strengthening these areas and developing this same level of expertise—and impact—in other areas.

Their commitment to intellection innovation has not caused the members of our faculty to lose sight of their vital role as the teachers of future lawyers. And they are fortunate to have such exceptional students to work with! One of every 10 applicants to law schools nationwide applies to GW, resulting in an exceptionally select and diverse student body. Last year, the Law School accepted fewer than 20 percent of its applicants, yielding an entering class with the highest objective scores—board scores and college academic records—of any class in our long history. GW Law students continue to win competition after competition in areas as varied as space law and animal rights litigation. Our law graduates have enjoyed extraordinary success in obtaining employment both here and abroad. Indeed, our Law School is among the top 10 law schools providing new associates to the top 250 law firms in this country. More GW Law graduates work in the federal government than do graduates from any other law school in the country. GW Law students have an active Student Bar Association; among its many accomplishments, it has been recognized by the American Bar Association as the best SBA for two years in a row.

These extraordinary students are, of course, our future alumni, and in that sense already members of the lifelong and worldwide community I mentioned earlier. One of my pleasures as a new president has been getting to know our Law School alumni, and, thanks to the hospitality of Dean Lawrence and his colleagues, I have already had numerous opportunities to do so. Despite their demanding schedules, our law alumni willingly contribute their time and talent, serving on advisory boards and acting as mentors and sponsors of our law students. I am inspired by their readiness to give back to the Law School in their time, their wisdom, and their wealth, and I look forward to meeting many more of them both here on campus and in my upcoming travel to cities around the globe.

I am sometimes asked how, as president, I will work with a law school, considering that I have come to GW from a university that did not have one. My immediate reply is that, shortly before leaving my role as provost at Johns Hopkins, I created a new business school; had I been there just a few more weeks, I would have started a law school as well! Actually, I do have some familiarity with law schools from my days at the University of California, where I had many opportunities to work with the faculty of Boalt Hall. In any event, there is nothing more gratifying than to join a new institution and discover its areas of true excellence. I have every confidence that GW Law School, under the proven leadership of its excellent dean, the continuing efforts of its distinguished faculty, and the ever-stronger involvement of its dedicated alumni, will remain at the vanguard of our efforts to be, and to be seen by all to be, the foremost university in the nation’s capital.