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A Message from the Dean

Summer 2009

Photo of Larry Sager
Dean Larry Sager

Dear Friends,

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:

  • Photo of Bob BoneBob Bone. Bob just accepted our offer. He is the strongest academic on the faculty of Boston University, and that university worked very hard to keep him. He works in civil procedure and intellectual property, and approaches both with great conceptual depth. As a visitor this year, he was an astonishing hit with our students as well as our faculty. He brings a fine and curious mind to the table.
  • Photo of Ronald MannRonald Mann. You heard it here first: Ronald has decided to leave Columbia and return to UT, ignoring overtures from a number of other leading law schools. Ronald is a leading academic figure of his generation, with several well-regarded books touching on areas like corporate enterprise and patents, e-commerce, and the credit card industry. He will rejoin the faculty in the 2010–2011 academic year, and plans to stay.
  • Photo of Ronen Avraham Ronen Avraham. Ronen is a recently tenured member of the Northwestern faculty whom many thought essential to that faculty’s strength going forward. Ronen received his LL.B. and a master’s degree in finance from Bar Ilan University, Israel, both magna cum laude, followed by a master’s and doctorate in law from Michigan. He has a wide-ranging intellect that will take him in many scholarly directions, and he has already been a prolific writer in torts and contracts. Most of his present work proceeds from the vantage of law and economics, but he has broad and eclectic interests.  Both Michigan and Duke made serious passes at him.
  • Photo of Justin DriverJustin Driver. Justin was a Marshall Scholar, went to Harvard Law School, served on the Law Review there, clerked for both Justices O’Connor and Breyer, and has spent the past few years at Sidley Austin, in Washington, D.C.  Duke (where Justin had received a master’s degree prior to law school) and we both pressed Justin to join our faculties. Initially, at least, Justin will begin his teaching and writing at the intersection of constitutional law and race.
  • Photo of Jennifer LaurinJennifer Laurin. Jennifer was first in her class at Columbia, served on the Law Review there, and clerked for U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa and then for Judge Guido Calabresi of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Jennifer has been practicing high level criminal appellate law with Cochran, Neufeld and Scheck (of Innocence Project fame). Jennifer got astonishing reviews from the judges and lawyers with whom she worked, and from all of the UT Law faculty who met her. Her early scholarship and teaching will be at the fertile overlap of criminal law and constitutional law.

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:

  • Keep us apprised of work opportunities at your shop, including internships, clerkships, and part-time work during the summer or school year;
  • Advocate on behalf of our students and graduates when employment decisions are being made in your shop;
  • Hire our students. You can post a position on our Job Bank at no cost;
  • Sign up to be a mentor, which simply involves making your contact information available to our students who may have career-related questions from time to time.

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.

Warm regards,

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Lawrence G. Sager