Total engagement, going “all in,” is the best way to get the most out of law school and to thrive in your postgraduate careers, Catholic University Law School’s Dean-designate Daniel F. Attridge told first-year students on Friday, Jan. 18.
“You’re attending a great law school with great teachers, fellow students and alumni. You need to take advantage of all this and not just sit on the sidelines,” he said. “Every day, with every encounter, you should do whatever you can to meet - or better yet, exceed – others’ expectations of your performance.”
The “Meet the Dean” address to 1L day students provided an opportunity for the incoming dean, who will officially assume the post on Feb. 1, to introduce himself and outline his priorities for the law school. The event also featured talks from alumni and members of the Law School’s Board of Visitors, who discussed the advantages of a legal education at the Columbus School of Law.
Dean-designate Attridge marked his top three priorities as maintaining enrollment, fundraising, and career development and job placement. All are challenging tasks, he acknowledged, but by no means insurmountable.
He also revealed what drew him to accept the deanship of CUA Law after 32 years of a highly successful private practice with Kirkland & Ellis LLP.
“CUA Law is a special place. When you arrive here as a student, you join a community and become part of a family or team. People here really care about you, and we really care about serving everyone. By the time you get your diploma here, the notion of serving others will be part of your DNA,” Attridge said.
Speakers throughout the afternoon stressed the advantages of earning a J.D. at Catholic University and cautioned against transfers motivated by magazine rankings.
Among the downsides, said the new dean “is that if you transfer, the odds of your being more successful at another law school go down, not up.”
The Jan. 18 program also rolled out “CUA Law Advantage,” a new online program that will match students with alumni mentors who can assist them with such skill- building exercises as mock and informational interviews or career coaching.
“The CUA Law community is such a great place to be a part of,” said Susan Newell (left), Class of 1993 and a member of the Board of Visitors. “This faculty will help you and engage with you. That is not common in law school,” she reminded the student audience.
The final segment of the afternoon featured two panels of alumni speakers who shared their assessments of the role CUA Law has played in their careers.
Sean Morris (below, seated at right), Class of 2004, recently established his own practice. Attending the Columbus School of Law was “quite likely the best experience of my life. Coming and staying here was the best decision I ever made,” he said.
Morris also told the first-year students that the job market for lawyers “is not as bad as they’re telling you,” and assured them that upon graduation, they can count on a supportive alumni community to help them launch their careers.
“CUA Law alumni who do really well send the elevator back down for the rest of us,” Morris said.
A similar program for first-year evening students is planned for Feb. 1.