Innovation at Temple Law

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a variety of issues impacting the future of legal education, mostly in preparation for a gathering of law school deans next month that will address the many questions confronting us at this time.  I want to be very clear – I’m excited about this conversation, and about this time in American legal education.  The challenges to our profession over the past few years have given rise to a new spirit of innovation and insight into how we both teach and practice law, and it is wonderful to experience. I’m proud of my colleagues here at Temple and at our peer institutions for the resilience and the passion they have brought to this sometimes daunting task.

I realized during the course of my preparations that many of our friends and alumni may not be aware of what we’re doing at Temple Law to prepare students for practice in our evolving profession. Our students have to be prepared to practice in ways that would never have been possible for earlier generations. That’s why we have committed ourselves to pushing legal education in new directions, preparing students for success wherever and however they choose to practice.

Our #2 US News & World Report rank in trial advocacy isn’t just because we win a lot of competitions; it’s because our integrated transactional and trial advocacy programs are so successful at producing practice-ready graduates.  That’s why we’ve built on these award-winning programs to create a new model for hands on legal education that starts earlier and goes farther than other experiential curricula. Our Introduction to Transactional Skills (ITS) mini-course gets first-year students out of the classroom and into a business deal within weeks of the first day of law school, while Litigation Basics gets them on their feet litigating a mock case, from questioning witnesses in a deposition to cross-examining them at trial.  I’m proud to report that these new first-year courses were recently recognized as among the most innovative law school initiatives in the country by National Jurist Magazine.

Many students have reported that doing what lawyers do so early in their law school career has given them a sense of professional identity and confidence in themselves, and it shows.  We think this is so important that we’ve also created the Temple Summer Professional Experience Curriculum (T-SPEC), which blends internships in a variety of local settings with a classroom component focused on professionalism and ethics as they arise in the course of the students’ summer work.

Summer also finds several Temple Law students traveling to D.C. for our pioneering Law & Public Policy program, where they work in policy-oriented internships, are mentored by Temple Law alumni, and engage in a collaborative learning experience about how change happens.  The program is directed by Professor Nancy J. Knauer, who is featured in What the Best Law Teachers Do by Michael Hunter Schwartz.  The Law & Public Policy program is more than just a summer program, however; students also have the option of spending a semester living and working in Washington D.C., and will soon have an opportunity to examine policy-making in urban environments through a Philadelphia-based course offering as well.

Upper level students have a range of innovative opportunities available to them during the school year, depending on their particular interests and professional plans.  Here are just a few examples:

  • Our Low Income Taxpayer Policy and Practice course combines classroom policy discussions with service in the IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, giving students the chance to experience first-hand the impact of national tax policy as they help low income taxpayers prepare their annual returns;
  • Our American Red Cross Disaster Relief Clinic, in which students learn about disaster recovery, conduct intake interviews at Red Cross House, prepare estate planning documents for disaster survivors, and create educational brochures for the Red Cross on legal questions common to disaster relief efforts.  Like ITS, the Red Cross clinic emphasizes collaboration, teamwork, and problem-solving, all of which are modeled by the several faculty members who work together to teach the course;
  • Our clinic in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Charging Unit, in which students, under supervision, make charging decisions in misdemeanor site arrests and approve or decline arrest warrants in misdemeanor cases; review and determine approval of search warrants; and conduct arraignment court and advocate on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for appropriate bail.  In doing so, students apply law to real cases and grapple with the ethical and professional issues prosecutors face in practice.  Like the Red Cross clinic, this clinic is designed to give evening students access to for-credit experiential opportunities;
  • Our Transactional Skills Workshop, which teaches the theory behind the need for transactional lawyers and puts students in a simulated deal where they must negotiate and draft complex documents;
  • Our Legal Issues in Business Strategic Planning course, a collaborative effort with Temple’s Fox School of Business in which Temple Law students and Temple MBA students work together to advise real start-up companies through Fox’s Enterprise Management Consulting program;
  • Our Global Scholars program, which prepares students to think of their future practice in a global context through internship opportunities in Rome and in Tokyo, and gives them direct experience engaging with lawyers and members of foreign legal institutions through a series of lectures, simulated exercises, and networking events; and
  • For those students with very specific interests, the Temple Law Practicum, a unique experiential learning opportunity that engages a student, a full-time faculty member and often a practicing attorney in solving a real problem for a real client.

As the legal profession continues to evolve, lawyers are finding new opportunities every day for solving the problems facing our families, our businesses, and our communities. At Temple Law, we see the potential in our students for doing a world of good in ways never before possible for lawyers, and we’re committed to giving them the tools to get it done.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at Temple Law

It is always inspiring to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King. I was particularly excited to celebrate his birthday at this morning’s Barristers Association of Philadelphia Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Memorial Breakfast, where two members of the Temple Law School family were honored. Albert S Dandridge III, a partner at Schnader Harrison Segal and Lewis, LLP, received the Honorable William F. Hall Award. Bennett Lomax and The Lomax Companies received the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for Outstanding Service to the Community. I was then honored to present the Keynote Address at the Barristers’ service project at the Philadelphia Electrical and Technology Charter High School. I was particularly excited to discover that I was speaking to a group of students who otherwise had the day off. They were present to participate in a program sponsored by the Barristers to give them instructions and an opportunity to participate in the art of public speaking. Yet another highlight came in meeting two of the volunteer Instructors, Temple Law students Danielle Newsome, a second-year, and Ashley Myers, a first-year, as they were leading the students in an oral presentation exercise.

Day classes were cancelled at the law school so that members of our community could participate in service projects.  In addition to the many individually chosen activities in which members of our community participated, we had two organized events this year. About 60 people attended our annual training for the IRS’ VITA program, through which Temple Law students, faculty, and staff volunteer to help low income taxpayers prepare their annual income tax returns, often enabling them to obtain substantial (and much needed) refunds without being exposed to predatory or unlawful tax preparation services.  Another 25 or so participated in a cleanup project at the John F. Street Community Center, part of the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s Richard Allen Homes development, that was organized by the Office of Public Interest Programs, Black Law Students Association (BLSA), and Student Public Interest Network (SPIN).  I am both proud of and grateful for the service of everyone who marked Dr. King’s birthday in these and other meaningful ways.

Click here for coverage of the Temple Law School sponsored events.

Welcome

In our part of the world, January is almost universally perceived as a time for starting anew. For most people, this means starting a new diet; for me, this year, it means flirting with the idea of starting a diet, but committing to starting a blog.

Chances are that two questions flow from that statement for most of you: “why would a law school dean start a blog?” and “why should I read it?.” The first answer is easy: I’m asked a lot about what is going on at the law school, and sometimes, more generally, what is going on in legal education.  I want to create a place for community dialogue on issues impacting Temple Law,our parent University, legal education, and the legal profession, and to share with you some of the more interesting experiences that I get to have as Dean.  (I promise to spare you the less interesting ones). The second answer is largely up to you, but I hope it will involve a mutual love for at least one of these overlapping communities and an excitement for the potential that each of them has to do some very real good in the world.

 

It’s About Community

 

Temple Law Moment of Thanks Toy Drive

Temple Law and CORA community members with toys for at-risk children in Northeast Philadelphia

 

Temple Law Moment of Thanks Food Drive

Temple Law students with items for donation to Philabundance

Last fall, the Temple Law community came together at Thanksgiving and again at Christmas to make our second annual Moment of Thanks campaign an overwhelming success.  Together, we donated more than 750 canned food items to Philabundance, the region’s largest hunger relief organization, and more than 600 toys to at-risk children in Northeast Philadelphia through CORA services.

I’d like to express my personal gratitude to all who participated in these efforts.  The end of the fall semester is an incredibly stressful time for law students and faculty alike, but you took the time anyway to make sure that Temple Law could give back to the community around us.  We have often said that our people are our best asset, and you have once again shown that to be true.

Thank you, and Happy New Year!

 

Impactful

Anne Curzan, a linguist at the University of Michigan, has written a wonderful blog post about one of my favorite non-words: impactful.  If you are at all interested in the evolution of our language, I encourage you to read it for its thoughtfulness and insight.

Why do I like “impactful?” In a nutshell, I think it captures an essential element of what we strive for at Temple Law School.  We’ve challenged our students to be people who solve problems, right wrongs, and get things done.  We want them to be innovators whose creativity changes outcomes. We want them to be entrepreneurs willing to step into the gap when they see a need and meet it with confidence and skill. We want them to do work that engages, inspires, and changes them.  We want them to be impactful.

From what I can see, our students feel the same way.  They don’t wait for graduation or practice to make their mark – they jump in when they see a need and meet it with creativity, persistence, and confidence.  Whether it’s partnering with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to create a youth court in one of the city’s most impoverished high schools, proposing immigration and labor law reforms that garner national attention, or building medical-legal partnerships that place lawyers onsite in medical settings where they can directly intervene when adverse conditions contribute to poor health outcomes, Temple students are impactful, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.

I will add a caveat here that as a stickler on matters of grammar and language, I will not be using “impactful” in my own writing anytime soon.  I think that reasonable minds can disagree about whether it has yet earned a place in the lexicon.  But I also think that the concept it conveys is both powerful and necessary, and that an ethic of “impactfulness” could bring much needed energy to our profession.  We will continue to seek and support that energy within our Temple Law School community , and to teach our students to seek and support it in their own lives and practices. With any luck, by the time the language catches up with them, they will have become the very definition of “impactful.”