Message from the Dean
July 25, 2011
Welcome to our first on-line issue of the Law School’s Advocate Abridged, one of our alumni publications. I hope you like the format and enjoy the content we’re providing through this electronic publication. Our plan is to publish three on-line editions of the Abridged each year and two Advocate magazines. The Advocate magazines will be delivered in hard copy and also available in electronic format.
We are just weeks away welcoming a new class of first year students, as well as welcoming back our upper division students. As I do each year, I look forward to having the students return to campus. Although we get a great deal done over the summer, including a few necessary construction projects, it is not the same without the energy the students bring to the campus. I hope that you will also visit the campus this year or attend one of the alumni events we host around the country. You can learn more about these activities and events in the articles that are part of this on-line issue.
I also want to offer you a short update on our evening program. As you may know, until its merger with Lewis & Clark College in the 1960’s the Northwest School of Law was purely an evening school. Upon its merger with the College, the law school established a day program, while committing to maintain its evening program to provide the opportunity of a legal education to those who are not able to attend law school full time. The law school’s mission statement expressly provides: “We value our origin as an evening school and embrace our commitment to providing high-quality legal education to those who cannot devote full time to legal studies.” The law school has adhered to this commitment by ensuring a vibrant and dynamic evening program, with a wide range of curricular choices, in which full-time faculty are fully involved. The law school’s current evening program has been in place, with very little change, since its merger with Lewis & Clark.
At a faculty retreat in 2007, the faculty discussed the evening program at length. While unequivocally reaffirming its commitment to the program, the faculty agreed that, like any other program, the evening program was due for careful evaluation to ensure that it continued to promote the law school’s mission, to meet the needs of students, and to deploy law school resources efficiently. In particular, the faculty was concerned about updating the program to the extent necessary to respond to contemporary trends (such as changes in the workplace and demographics) that are likely to affect students who choose to pursue a part-time legal education. At the retreat, the faculty resolved to set up a working group, headed by Associate Dean of Faculty Brian Blum, to explore these questions.
The working group, consisting of faculty members and senior administrators, has met several times since the retreat, and has reported to the faculty at several faculty meetings. The faculty has adopted the approach of proceeding cautiously and deliberately in making changes to the evening program. There are many factors to be studied before final decisions will be made on improvements to the program, and we expect that any changes will be implemented gradually over a period of years. Some of the changes that we are considering include the introduction of some Saturday morning classes and early morning classes to see if those class times might be convenient for students and faculty.
Next year, we are conducting a pilot program with regard to the starting times of first-year evening classes. Those classes will begin at 5.00 p.m. instead of 6 p.m. There will be no change in the starting times of upper class courses, given that we do not to interfere with the expectations of students who are currently enrolled in the evening program. Our thinking in changing the starting times of first-year evening classes is that the workplace environment has changed so that the earlier start time will be feasible for those planning to enroll in the evening program. By beginning classes an hour earlier, we allow students to get home earlier, and also create class times that are less burdensome for adjunct faculty (most of whom do not wish to teach at 8 p.m.), for day students who wish to enroll in evening classes, and for full-time faculty. This earlier start time for the 2011 entering class is a pilot program, and will be monitored to evaluate its success. If it is successful, it will be implemented again in successive years, and ultimately, after the graduation of current evening students, will be applied to upper class courses as well. Of course, if the change does not yield positive results, it will be eliminated and we will return to the old schedule.
As noted above, we have a strong commitment to providing an excellent evening program, and will continue to work on ensuring that a top-quality legal education is accessible to those who cannot attend law school full time. Our efforts in making changes to the evening program are designed to modernize it and to ensure that it operates with the greatest efficiency possible, in a way that best serves the needs of our students. Our goal is to make this already superb program even stronger.
I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer and, again, I look forward to seeing you at one of our 2011-2012 law school events.
Dean & Professor of Law