We are near the end of an extremely busy and productive academic year. Our students started examinations this week, and the faculty, myself included, will soon be grading. We have just had a meeting of our excellent Board of Advisors, a reunion, and a large employer showcase for our students. In the rest of this letter, I discuss our overall situation.
First, owing to the hard work of Kati Scannell, Vice Dean for Institutional Success, and an exceptional admissions team, we welcomed an extraordinary 1L class this year. (I taught a section of Constitutional Law in the fall and a section of Criminal Law this spring.) The members of the class have worked well together and have successfully navigated the first year. With the support of our expert career center, they have secured competitive, interesting summer jobs. Recently, they signed up for classes for next fall, a process managed very capably by Peggie Smith, Vice Dean for Academic Affairs, and Elizabeth Walsh, Associate Dean of Student Life. As the practice of law evolves, we constantly look to expand course offerings to ensure students have the knowledge and skills needed for practice in today’s world.
Second, we had an extremely active faculty-hiring year, handled well by Professor Dan Epps, Chair of the Appointments Committee. We made a number of offers to outstanding candidates, all of whom were sought after by other fine law schools. While some excellent candidates accepted our offer, others did not. This is normal when you seek to hire the best candidates. All told, we have three new faculty for next year and may add one or two more. Further, we are seeking a new clinical faculty member to head our new Veterans Clinic.
Third, the faculty produced a large number of articles accepted for publication at leading law reviews and peer-reviewed publications. The faculty also presented many papers here, at other law schools, and at conferences throughout the U.S. and the world. We were also excited that so many scholars were able to travel to our campus, in our post-lockdown world, to make presentations. Scott Baker, Vice Dean for Research and Faculty Development, coordinated all these events and, along with Professor Kyle Rozema, handled a new workshop series on Law and Economics.
Fourth, while our students attended classes, they did many other things. They participated in a wide range of extracurricular and co-curricular activities, including journals and student-run organizations, moot court competitions, clinical programs, and externships. They also played sports and volunteered in community activities, all while balancing robust social and family lives.
Fifth, as many of you know, U.S. News & World Report has been embroiled in controversy about the methodology and accuracy of its quest to rank graduate and professional schools precisely. As I have shared publicly, I favor efforts to generate and disseminate useful information to prospective students and others about legal education. We are witnessing the chaotic results of this controversy including boycotts, sudden shifts in ranking criteria, and dissemination of bad information. Notwithstanding this chaos, our goal remains the same: to be an excellent law school, a purpose that requires a willingness to adapt when faced with change, an unwavering commitment to hard work, and thoughtful management.
Sixth, we are implementing our strategic plan. This plan is designed to complement aspects of the University’s strategic plan. It commits us to enhance our scholarly profile and to add strength in several areas, including empirical studies, alternative dispute resolution, constitutional law, intellectual property, and interdisciplinary work like our Cordell Institute for Policy in Medicine & Law. It also commits us to strengthen our graduate programs, diversity efforts, and the entire student experience.
Seventh, while other law schools have had some disappointing experiences with intolerance and interference with civil discourse and free speech, I am happy to report that we have managed thus far to remain united around the centrality of these commitments. To be sure, we have had and will continue to have disagreements. Still, we have also steadfastly embraced the principles of respectful communication and free exchange as central, core commitments of Washington University, its Law School, and the legal system.
I want to end this letter first by acknowledging that our many successes reflect the dedication of an outstanding group of people including our amazing staff and second by setting out my goals for this fine law school. We aim to educate our students in a comprehensive fashion about the law but also emphasize its interactions with our social order. Our students are colleagues and partners in this undertaking. Our faculty’s research adds to the stock of knowledge, often incrementally, but always with an eye towards a better understanding of the law and legal institutions. We also work to improve the law and secure justice through our clinics and public activities. Law is not static but ever-evolving. Finally, as a member of Washington University and the St. Louis region, we endeavor to contribute positively to both communities.