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Seize the Day: Securing the Future of Our Law School

In 2008, the University of Texas at Austin announced the start of an historic, University-wide fundraising effort. UT Law has set an ambitious goal of raising $200 million over the next five years as a part of this capital campaign. The money raised during the campaign will be used for support in three broad categories—faculty recruitment and retention, student recruitment and support, and support for new and expanded programs at the Law School.

UT Law School is a unique asset for Texas, and it is also at a defining moment in its history. The Law School offers a high quality legal education at a comparatively low cost, while providing extraordinary service to the legal system and to the citizens of our state. The growth and success of its clinical programs (the Capital Punishment and Supreme Court Clinics’ faculty and students were involved in six cases argued and won before the U.S. Supreme Court last term—an unprecedented achievement by any law school), the tripling of the number of Federal Court of Appeals clerkships in a single year, an amazing run of recent faculty appointments, and a dazzling array of professional activities by UT Law alumni across the nation and beyond are testament to the Law School’s success.

But our law school is vulnerable. The size of the faculty must increase to reduce class size and to improve the faculty/student ratio. The competition among the nation’s top law schools is fiercely predatory, and UT Law must be able to counter enticements to its faculty from other law schools while working to attract nationally recognized legal scholars to Texas. Likewise, UT Law must have the necessary resources to recruit the best and the brightest students from across the state and from around the country. To do that, student scholarship offerings must be expanded, course offerings in the core curriculum, clinical legal education, and interdisciplinary studies (such as law and business) must be broadened and strengthened. The capital campaign will also focus on creating specific centers of education and research where Texas ought to be a leader among American law schools, including in the areas of energy, international business transactions, and intellectual property.

Dean Larry Sager appointed a committee of seventy distinguished alumni, named the Campaign Leadership Council (CLC), which developed the priorities and fundraising strategies of the capital campaign. Joe Jamail, ’52, serves as honorary chair of the CLC. Jamail, the renowned trial lawyer, has long been a generous benefactor to UT Law School (see related story) and serves as a Life Member Trustee of the University of Texas Law School Foundation.

David J. Beck, ’65, has accepted the position of chair of the CLC. Beck, a Life Member Trustee and past president of the Law School Foundation, will direct the efforts of the CLC. Beck is a founding partner of the Houston law firm of Beck, Redden & Secrest, LLP and is widely regarded as one of the nation’s best trial lawyers. Beck is the immediate past president of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a Fellow in the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, an Advocate in the American Board of Trial Lawyers, and an Honorary Overseas Member of the Commercial Bar Association, a preeminent association of English barristers. Beck is a past  president of the State Bar of Texas, and a past president of the International Association of Defense Counsel. Beck is a member of the prestigious Judicial Conference Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, having first been appointed by Chief Justice of the United States William Rehnquist and then reappointed by Chief Justice John Roberts.

The Campaign Leadership Council is divided into four divisions that will focus on different aspects of the fundraising effort, including outreach to individual alumni and friends engaged in the practice of law, those engaged in other business interests, and law firms and other businesses with affinities to particular programs or projects of the Law School. These divisions are Leadership Gifts, targeting contributions of $1 million or more; Law Partners, targeting long-term, current-use donations by law firms and businesses; Alumni Major Gifts, focusing on contributions between $100,000 and $1 million; and JDs Not Practicing (JDPs), targeting UT Law alumni engaged in business, finance, and interests other than the practice of law.