GW Magazine nameplate

A Transformative Fall Semester

What a difference a semester makes! During my first few months as dean, this law school has embarked on the transformative task of improving everything we do. And as we innovate, the energy in the school is palpable.

In this issue, you will read more about some of these initiatives. For example, I have created three strategic planning committees to help activate faculty, students, and alumni to think creatively about the school's future. The first, the Strategic Planning Committee on Law School Identity and Communication, has been asked to think about what it is that differentiates this law school from other top law schools and then to consider ways we might better capitalize on that distinctiveness and communicate it to the world. The second, the Strategic Planning Committee on Curricular and Pedagogic Innovation, is focused on ways we might transform our current curriculum to provide even more opportunities and pathways for students. The third, the Strategic Planning Committee on Student Well-Being and Professional Development, is studying ways we can improve student support and well-being, as well as provide greater professional development training to bridge the gap from law school to law practice. Each of these committees will feature strong student and alumni input, and I hope that over the coming months and years you will start to witness the results of the committees' work!

As we build, we focus on a school of true engagement, where students experience law in action, not just as it exists in books. This fall, we welcomed two U.S. Supreme Court justices to campus. Justice Clarence Thomas was here nearly every week to co-teach a seminar with Professor Greg Maggs, and Justice Antonin Scalia shared his thoughts on the methodology of originalism with our community at the 2011 Law Review Symposium. Other events featured former FDIC Chair Sheila Bair and Deputy Attorney General James Cole, among many others.

This focus on law in action also requires a renewed emphasis on connecting students to our extraordinary network of distinguished alumni. In this issue, you'll learn about our new Alumni Admissions Interview Program. We are also launching an Alumni Mentoring Initiative through which students will be matched with mentors from practice. Finally, we are significantly improving our alumni database so that graduating students can receive invaluable career and job placement advice no matter their desired practice location and area. In a difficult job market, I believe these connections to the real world of law and policy will be a big differentiator for the school.

There is, of course, no better way to emphasize law in action than to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Jacob Burns Community Legal Clinics, which have long provided important hands-on training to students while serving indigent clients. Looking forward, we hope to create expanded clinical opportunities as well as a new program focused on skills that have long been ignored by most law schools: networking, client development, entrepreneurship, law firm economics, and so on. Teaching these important skills is part of our commitment to connecting students to the real world of law.

Finally, a word about our students, many of whom I have met personally during my weekly dean's drop-in hours and at various meet-and-greet events. They are bright, eager, focused, and proactive, and I am pleased to report that the entering JD class has the highest median GPAs and LSAT scores in our school's history. They come from diverse backgrounds and have unique outlooks and goals, but they each have the ambition to change the world that is the hallmark of our community. And we are committed to supporting them: Indeed, fully 56 percent of entering 1Ls received financial aid from the Law School (over and above loans). Despite our efforts, however, we need to do more to ensure that a world-class education remains affordable. Thus, I have launched a new scholarship initiative, and I hope you will help me build a permanent endowment so that money will never be a barrier to a GW Law education.

I was thrilled to meet so many of you at our Alumni Weekend 2011, which drew more graduates than ever in our history. I hope to build on the energy and excitement of that event at our first Spring Reunion on June 2, 2012. In addition, I am committed to bringing the school to you through alumni events around the country and abroad. I have made 12 trips in five months in order to reach out to our vast alumni network, and many more visits are scheduled. As always, my door and in-box are open, and I look forward to hearing from you. Please continue to visit my blog at to read my thoughts on topics of importance to our community and to leave your comments. Thank you for your continued dedication to the transformative future of GW Law!

Paul Schiff Berman
Dean and Robert Kramer Research Professor of Law