Sunday, October 7, 2007
Building for the Future
"The quality and creative power of student intellectual life to this day remains a vital measure of a school's influence and attainment." Rosenberger v. Rector & Visitors of the Univ. of Va., 515 U.S. 819, 836 (1995) - Justice Kennedy's majority opinion
I've been thinking lately about what makes a good law school great. For starters, all great law schools have at least one essential element: first class faculty. Great thinkers beget great thinkers. They model critical thinking, they train us to think critically, and they draw critical thoughts out of us through the give and take of classroom discussion. Bottom line, faculty matters. However, while students may grouse about rankings and expect the administration to do something about it, I can't help but wonder whether students too can impact the "measure of [our] school's influence and attainment."
Can law school students influence the shift from good to great? How? Well, it has a lot to do with the mentality with which we approach our legal education. I can start by making a few suggestions, but I whole-heartedly welcome additional suggestions in the comments following this post.
(1) Create a culture of excellence by making the most of opportunities to learn and seriously considering our individual contributions to the whole.
(2) Think generationally. We will benefit in the decades to come from the influence and attainment of the law school over time. Future students will only achieve greater heights by standing on our shoulders.
(3) Help one another adhere to a code of professional behavior that will make us proud to stand in a courtroom one day and be sworn into the bar.
(4) Be curious. With the internet we have unprecedented access to the latest coming out of One First Street Northeast and opportunities to dialogue with our colleagues via blogs.
(5) Think solutions. We are members of an elite legal community that will be called upon to solve the world's problems (well, some of them at least). While in law school we can learn not only to identify areas of weakness, but also to contribute positively so that they become areas of strength.
We students at PSU DSL in both locations have a unique opportunity. We are on the ground floor of what the law school is going to be. We are taking the first steps on the journey towards where the law school is headed. We are experiencing the growing pains and challenges of transition space and we have one more major transition coming down the road: the transition into our new buildings. It's a clean slate of sorts. We can reflect back on the tone of the past couple years and ask ourselves, what attitudes do we want to carry with us into the new space? Which ones do we want to leave behind? What lessons have we learned from this season of transition? What worked? What didn't work? What built up and what tore down? We have an opportunity to set the tone for the current student body and to lay the foundation for years to come.