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.”