Dear CUA Law Students,
We began March, my second month as the new Dean of the Law School, with spring break -- a tradition in our schedule that everyone seems to relish. It was a time for you to catch up on your coursework, to participate in the law review writing competitions, look for summer positions, participate in service projects, or do some traveling or relaxing. After that, it was back to work at the hurried pace that seems to characterize the end of every academic year. This is a brief report on some of our activities during the month:
1. Rankings. As many of you know, U.S. News & World Report released its law school rankings earlier this month. CUA Law moved up two places to 80th, while all other law schools in the Washington/Baltimore area moved down in the rankings. The best news is that our evening program moved up in U.S. News’ rankings from 27th to 18th in the country. While U.S. News’ rankings seem to be widely publicized, other rankings may be just as notable. For example, Forbes recently ranked law schools based on their graduates’ median salaries. CUA is ranked 22nd overall, based on our graduates’ starting median salary of $81,500. Forbes also reports that CUA Law graduates have a mid-career median salary of $162,000. Besides Georgetown, no other area law school appears on Forbes’ top 25 list. Also, a recent scholarly article explores whether there is any correlation between a law school’s ranking and its graduates’ career success. To test the question, the author compares the U.S. News’ rankings of law schools with the total number of their graduates who are partners at the 250 largest law firms. The author finds that CUA Law ranks 36th among the number of partners at the largest law firms (significantly outperforming our U.S. News ranking) and is the 6th ranked top feeder school for law firm partners in the Washington area (ahead of Yale, Chicago, Michigan, and Columbia). See Theodore P. Seto, Where Do Partners Come From?, 62 J. Legal Educ. 242 (2012).
2. Joint J.D./M.S.B.A. Degree Program. In last month’s newsletter, I reported that we were in discussions with Dean Andrew Abela of Catholic University’s new School of Business and Economics about ways our two schools might work together to benefit our students. I am pleased to report that our schools have received University approval to offer a joint J.D./M.S.B.A. degree program beginning next fall. A Masters of Science in Business Analysis degree is typically a one-year program pursued by students who major in the liberal arts as undergraduates. Under the new joint degree program, students will be able to complete both degrees in 3½ rather than 4 years. We believe this joint degree program will be attractive, allowing students to obtain two complementary degrees in a shorter time period and to pursue both degrees in the context of our University’s mission of service to others.
3. Cum Laude / Dean’s List. Up until the present time, we have awarded cum laude recognition to the top quarter of our graduating students based on their GPAs. Going forward, beginning this May, we will award cum laude recognition to the top one-third of the graduating class (in each division). Also, beginning this May, we will have a Dean's List to recognize on an annual basis the top one-third of each class (in each division). These changes will bring our honors recognition programs in line with those at other area law schools, such as Georgetown and George Washington, with whom you compete for job and other opportunities. In my experience, legal employers react positively to students who have Dean's List (or similar) recognition while in school and cum laude (or higher) recognition upon graduation. Changing our cum laude cut-off to the top one-third will enable more of our students to achieve this distinction and, in light of competitive standards, we can do so without devaluing the award. In addition, I believe that many students will be motivated by the potential for Dean's List recognition for each of their three or four years at CUA. You will have incentives to perform well each year, and those who may not perform up to their potential in one year will have an incentive to keep striving in subsequent years.
4. Students Winning the National Ethics Trial Competition. Coached by Professor Louis Barracato, a team of four of our outstanding students -- Michael Ellement, Ivy Gibson, Jay Goossen, and Allison Summers -- won the National Ethics Trial Competition, held on March 14-16 in Sacramento, California. They finished first among a field of trial teams from 16 highly ranked advocacy programs. The trial competition judges included U.S. District Court Judges and distinguished Inns of Court members, all of whom were very impressed with our students’ advocacy skills. Congratulations on a great victory!
5. Courses for Practitioners. Under a newly approved program, as an outgrowth of a suggestion by Professor David Lipton, J.D. degree holders from any accredited law school will now be able to take individual courses at CUA Law for University or Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit. We believe that there are alumni and other J.D. graduates in our area who may interested in taking our courses, particularly our more advanced upper level courses in specialized areas such as securities law. An example would be a practitioner who wants to retool or to add extra skills by taking one or more courses, but who is not necessarily interested in committing to a full fledged LL.M. program. The practitioner typically would want to receive CLE credit and keep open the option of using the course toward the fulfillment of LL.M. requirements. We think this new program will position us to offer real value to alumni and practitioners in our area and enhance our students' experience in the classroom with additional perspectives.
6. Scholarships. As I announced at last month’s Town Hall meeting, we have made change to our policy on scholarship renewals. Previously some students received scholarships whose renewal was conditioned on their performance in the top 25% of their class during their first year. This put some students at risk of losing all or part of their scholarships in subsequent years. We have changed this policy on a going-forward basis. Current first-year students (and those who matriculate this coming year) will retain their scholarships as long as they remain in good standing and maintain a 2.25 G.P.A. We think this change will have a positive impact on our ability to attract and retain highly qualified students.
7. Alumni Visits. Since I started as Dean on February 1, I have visited six local employers where we have larger groups of alumni (the Federal Communications Commission, Akin Gump, Hogan Lovells, FINRA, Morgan Lewis, and Patton Boggs). I have also made trips to meet groups of alumni at events held in Philadelphia, Newark, New York City, Miami, and Orlando. And, of course, I have had many other in-person meetings, phone calls, and email exchanges with alumni. This has been a great opportunity for me to get to know many of our alumni personally, to learn about their backgrounds and interests, and to understand how much they have benefited from their education at CUA Law and their continuing affiliation with our community. It has also been a chance for me to talk candidly about what’s happening at the Law School these days, and to explain how interested alumni might be able to help us with my priorities of enrollment, job placement, and fundraising.
8. Interesting Events at CUA Law. There is an abundance of amazingly interesting events and programs conducted by and for our students at the Law School. As the new Dean, I get invited to attend some of these occasions, often “to say a few words,” and I enjoy this. This past week, for example, I attended a Seder hosted by the Jewish Law Students Association that featured pearls of rabbinical wisdom from Professor Cliff Fishman; was a guest lecturer at Professor Steve Goldman’s professional responsibility class where the subject matter focused on a conflict-of-interest case involving my own law firm; spoke at an alumni-student reception hosted by the Black Law Students Association in honor of our retired Professor Leroy D. Clark’s distinguished career as a civil rights attorney, expert arbitrator, and professor of criminal law; and served as the “Chief Justice” for counsel of record’s moot court preparation for an oral argument to be presented this week at the Supreme Court of the United States.
9. Publicity for CUA Law. If you want to help generate good publicity for yourselves and the Law School, my advice is to get in touch with your local newspaper. They often publish very nice articles about the activities of anyone active in the community. If you don’t believe me, check out this “puff piece” that appears in the Catholic Review about my new position at CUA Law. Please remember to put in a plug for CUA Law.
I am interested in your thoughts about your experience at CUA Law. I welcome your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Daniel F. Attridge