Dean Larry Sager
This is the first note among many that I will post regularly to update you on what’s happening at UT Law. In these notes, I promise not to talk about money, the better to focus on the remarkable community we share. With finals and the Sunflower Ceremony behind us, and the academic year drawing to a close, this is a good moment to take stock.
High among our priorities has been the hiring of stellar faculty, and we have exceeded all expectations. This year we have already made eight hires, building on the four great hires of last year. And as I write, we have two more promising offers outstanding. A dozen or more new faculty in a single spurt is remarkable, but the numbers are far less important than the quality of our appointments. Let me give you some flavor of how good our new colleagues are by sharing sketches of a sample of this year’s appointments, in order of seniority:
This, bear in mind, is just a sample of the folks we have hired. They are a wonderful group…a mark of explosive success.
The same sense of well-being is reflected in the burst of new programs at UT Law that were in flower at semester’s end. Several weeks ago, the Law School’s new Center for Women in Law had an amazing coming out party: the Women’s Power Summit on Law and Leadership. More than 150 women lawyers, with leadership positions in law firms, Fortune 500 corporations, the judiciary, academia, nonprofits and government—and a number of their male counterparts—attended the Summit in Austin. Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor gave the keynote address in a conference aimed at taking concrete steps towards achieving what has remained surprisingly elusive: gender equity at the highest levels of the legal profession. The thirty-three founders of the Center for Women in Law have all achieved stellar success. Their passion is aimed at making it less difficult and less exceptional for other women to follow them to leadership positions in law and business. Almost all of the founders are our alums; all of them honor UT Law by their firm support of the Center.
On the same weekend in May, the George McMillan Fleming Center for Law and Innovation in Biomedicine and Healthcare was having its first major conference. “Law and Innovation: the Embryonic Stem Cell Controversy,” featured panels on the science, ethics, politics, regulation, intellectual property, and translational aspects of stem cell research. It brought together distinguished speakers from Harvard, Stanford, Wisconsin, UCSD, UCSF, Dartmouth, Washington University, Boston Children’s Hospital, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and our own faculty (we were ably represented by John Robertson, John Golden, and Bill Sage). John Robertson organized the conference, and by his efforts proved how critical serious discourse in controversial matters of medical ethics and policy can be, and further, how useful the new Fleming Center is going to be in furthering such discourse. The Fleming Center is supported by a very generous gift from George Fleming, who also donated the money to create George’s Café, the now altogether pleasant eating spot in the Law School. The Center is named in honor of George’s father, who was a prominent and much admired hospital administrator.
Just a week later, our Center for Global Energy, International Arbitration, and Environmental Law was also stirring. The Center, which will admit its first LL.M. students this fall, had its public debut at the Peace Palace in The Hague. The Peace Palace was the site of a major conference on international arbitration. UT Law is a principal sponsor of the annual conference, which draws the most prominent “arbitrati” in the world to its meetings. We took the occasion of this year’s conference to announce our new Center and its focus on international arbitration…and, frankly, to recruit the academics and practitioners who are at the apex of this rapidly expanding form of dispute resolution. Our announcement and our advances were very well received.
Over the course of the summer, we will begin the process of selecting the winner of the John and Libba Massey Prize. This is a $100,000 prize to be awarded biennially to the best written work world-wide in Law, Innovation and Capital Markets. The Massey prize is intended to be our own version of the Pulitzer Prize, bringing academic insight to bear on all-too-real-world problems. When the Masseys aimed their generous gift at the goal of making UT Law a major hub of discourse about innovation and capital markets, this seemed an interesting and important enterprise for an elite national law school like UT. Now, of course, the events that have shaken the global economy have made clear how prescient John and Libba’s gift was, and have conspired to make the theme of the Massey Prize staggeringly important. The award will be embedded in a major conference hosted at UT Law.
There is much more to talk about, but I want to turn to a less academic aspect of the economic downturn. We are relatively lucky: the economic situation in Texas is better than most of the nation; and, on the whole, our students are successful in the job market, even in these hard times. But there is no ducking the fact that the students who walked across the stage in this year’s Sunflower Ceremony are having more trouble finding good jobs. And internships for our 1Ls and 2Ls are becoming scarcer; indeed, Texas Lawyer reports that the big Texas law firms are offering 27% fewer summer associate positions in 2009 as compared to 2008. We need your help with finding opportunities for our students. More specifically, I want to ask you to:
If you have any questions or suggestions, please email the Career Services Office or call them at 512-232-1150.
The economy and the employment picture put one other new program at UT Law into the spotlight. Last summer, on an experimental basis, we introduced our Career Launch Program. We offered to students who were not employed as of the time of the bar examination, placements as interns in governmental and public interest law offices for the period between the exam in August and the announcement of the results of the exam in November; and we provided each intern with a $6,000 stipend to help ends meet during that period. About 30 students enrolled in the Career Launch Program, and the results of the experiment were terrific. About half of the students were hired by the employer with whom they were placed in as interns; and almost all of the remaining students, bolstered by their experience and resulting recommendations, found good jobs.
The career launch program now enjoys an endowment, and a new name: The Joe R. and Teresa L. Long Career Launch Program at the UT School of Law. We expect the cost of the program to soar on account of the economy. In all probability, the number of students who participate will double…it could even triple. But for the great generosity of Joe and Terry Long, we couldn’t possibly meet this demand. As it is, we will have to scramble to find the resources to fully fund the program this summer.
Even with the challenges arising from the global economic crisis in which we now find ourselves, this is a wonderful moment at a wonderful law school—at your law school. Nationally, there is a buzz about UT Law. (Indeed, we’ve gone up one spot in the rankings, but I don’t plan to crow about that until we are firmly in the top 10, where we belong!)
I’ll end here for now, with best wishes for the summer and this final observation: None of this is possible without your help. You are a critical part of our community of ideas and constructive projects, our ultimate source of distinction. I welcome your ideas and comments in return, and I’m deeply grateful for your interest and support.
Lawrence G. Sager