September 19, 2012

Mandating Pro Bono, Teaching Values

Chief Judge Lippman discussing the new pro bono requirement at our Albany Chapter reception

In May, New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced that New York would require applicants for admission to the bar to perform 50 hours of pro bono work before being admitted.  As I noted at the time, the Chief Judge’s announcement immediately raised of host of questions about what kinds of work would count and when the new requirement would begin to apply.

Today, those questions were answered.  The details (including helpful FAQs) are available here.  Of most interest to our students, the new rules will not take effect until January 1, 2015, and the definition of “pro bono service” will include much of the good work that our students already do in clinics, externships, internships, and other law school service projects.

When we gathered with the Court of Appeals in Albany earlier this month, Chief Judge Lippman and I each spoke about our shared commitment to service.  In the spirit of St. Vincent, service to the poor has always been a part of St. John’s mission. I am happy that the Court of Appeals has now institutionalized that commitment for all aspiring New York lawyers.  I am also happy that the newly announced rules allow students to tap into the existing educational infrastructure that we have already built.  Through our clinics, externships, internships, and law school service projects, our students will not just “do” pro bono work, but they will also learn about their life-long obligation as members of the legal profession to use their legal training in the service of those who are less fortunate.

September 17, 2012

St. John’s in Albany

Honoring Judge Ciparick (Again!)

On September 5, the Albany Chapter of the Law School’s Alumni Association hosted a reception to honor Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick ’67, ’03HON.  It was not the first time we have honored Judge Ciparick this year, and it will not be the last.  Indeed, Judge Ciparick is being feted all throughout the state this year, as she approaches mandatory retirement after nineteen years as an Associate Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals.

It was particularly appropriate to honor Judge Ciparick in Albany, where she has served for so long and with such distinction.  And, as an indication of the esteem in which she is held by her colleagues, the entire Court of Appeals joined us for the celebration.  After introductions by Mark O’Rourke, President of the Albany Chapter, there were three speakers: Chief Judge Lippman, me, and Judge Ciparick.  Without any advance coordination, we all sounded the same themes: hard work, service and family.  In my remarks, I told the assembled guests about my Orientation address and the message I had given our students about St. John’s (“We are defined by hard work, we are committed to service, and we treat each other like family.”).  I then noted how Judge Ciparick embodies those values — with her tireless work, dedicated service, and genuine collegiality.  Chief Judge Lippman extolled the same qualities in our dear friend, and then Judge Ciparick spoke movingly about her “families,” including her “Court family” and her “St. John’s family.”

It was a large and diverse group that had assembled to honor Judge Ciparick — Court of Appeals Judges, Third Department Judges, Court employees, and St. John’s alumni, students, and faculty — but we were united in our admiration and affection for Judge Ciparick.

Judge Ciparick and me, flanked by (from left to right) Albany Chapter President Mark O’Rourke ’02, Alumni Board President Alan Hodish ’89, Judge Theodore J. Jones ’72, Judge Susan Phillips Read, Judge Victoria A. Graffeo, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, Judge Robert S. Smith, and Judge Eugene F. Piggott, Jr.

September 10, 2012

Meeting the Deans

The University’s Communications Department has been running a series called “Meet the Deans: A Series of Informal Conversations with the Deans of St. John’s.” The Q&A format is informal and not completely focused on our work as deans. The purpose, I think, is to emphasize that we deans are human and approachable. (We are, really — can’t you tell by the rolled up sleeves?). Sample questions include: “If you could be or do anything else, what might that be?” and “What’s the one thing about you that very few people know?” I can’t promise any monumental revelations, but if you want to learn a little more about me, the Q&A is here:

Conversations with some of the other deans at St. John’s are available here:

September 10, 2012

Back to School (and Back to Blogging)

Welcoming the Newest Members of the St. John’s Family

One of my favorite moments of the year is the first day of Orientation.  After a summer of research, renovation, and rejuvenation, the building is suddenly filled with an entire class of new students all at once.  They are eager, excited, enthusiastic, and filled with energy (much of it nervous energy).  They haven’t yet taken a class or briefed a case; they don’t yet know their professors and they don’t know what it’s like to be “called on.” Although they are law students, the actual experience of law school is, for most of them, still a mystery.  And so, Orientation consists mostly of them getting lots of advice from people who do know what law school is like.

The 265 new JD students that we welcomed in August were no different. They spent the first four hours of their law school careers getting advice: they heard from the Associate Academic Dean, from the Dean of Students, from a panel of professors and students (“How to Succeed in Law School”), and from a panel of alumni (“The Profession of the Law”).  And they heard from me.

The full story about Orientation is here.

My main goal in my Orientation speech each year is make our students feel welcomed and to help them relax a bit.  More substantively, I want to tell them about St. John’s School of Law, about the community they have joined.  And, of course, I give them some advice.  Here is a very brief summary of what I told them.

Things to know about St. John’s:

  1.  We are defined by hard work.  Hard work is part of our reputation, it’s part of our culture, it’s part of what has made our graduates so successful.
  2. We are committed to service.  Service is part of our Vincentian identity and heritage, and it is reflected in our clinics, our pro bono program, our Orientation Service Day, and countless other ways in which we use our knowledge and skills to help those less fortunate.
  3. We treat each other like family.  Dedicated faculty, collegial students, compassionate staff, caring administrators, and supportive alumni — all part of what makes St. John’s a family.

Advice about how to navigate law school:

  1. Work hard (see #1 above), but take care of yourself.  Exercise, sleep, socialize (once in a while).  Do not let the demands of law study overwhelm you.
  2. Serve. (See #2 above).  Do not let the pressures of law school cause you to lose sight of the fundamental ideal of the legal profession: Justice.
  3. Be an entrepreneur.  You are the product, and you should view the next three years as a time of product development.

Needless to say, the full speech was longer (and, I hope, funnier).

June 11, 2012

Celebrating Commencement

Last weekend, I had the privilege of presiding over the Law School’s Commencement Exercises.  More than 3,000 people gathered in Carnesecca Arena on our Queens campus to celebrate the accomplishments of our 265 J.D. graduates and our 23 LL.M. graduates.  It was a beautiful day, filled with a wonderfully festive air.

The full story is here, with photos here, here, and here.

There were many memorable aspects to the day:

  • Gene Orza’s Commencement Address, in which he urged our graduates to understand the importance of compromise in a lawyer’s work and to embrace the richness and diversity of New York City.
  • Tom Principe’s closing remarks, his final official act as President of our Alumni Association (thank you, Tom, for a great year).
  • The presentation of the St. Thomas More Award for Outstanding Moral Leadership to our outgoing Provost Dr. Julia Upton (and actually surprising her).
  • The standing ovation given to Capt. Tom Kehoe ’12, whose legal studies were interrupted by his second tour of combat duty in Iraq.
  • The many honors and awards that we bestowed on our graduates (special congratulations to Dean McGee ’12 for receiving the Joseph Kerzner Prize for having the highest GPA in the class).
  • The participation of so many alumni and faculty in the hooding of their family members (including Carey Alexander ’12 being hooded by his mother Professor Elayne Greenberg, and Kevin Ward ’12 being hooded by his mother Kathleen ’79, his sisters Maggie ’08 and Katie ’10, and his brother-in-law Nick Rigano ’08).
  • The post-ceremony reception in Taffner Field House, where graduates, their families and friends, and faculty all gathered together in celebratory fellowship.

To me, the highlight of Commencement is always the hooding of the individual graduates.  Over the course of about an hour, the graduates ascend the stage one by one, as Dean Turano reads out their names and accomplishments.   On stage, I place on their shoulders a purple, red and white hood that is rich with symbolism: the hood itself represents their academic accomplishments; the purple signifies their entry into the legal profession; and the red and white signifies that they are, and will remain, part of the St. John’s family.

The video of the entire ceremony is available here.  The text of my commencement address appears after the break.

Congratulations to all of our graduates!

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May 25, 2012

New York’s New Pro Bono Requirement

With NYU Dean Ricky Revesz at the Access to Justice Conference

On May 1, New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced that New York would require applicants for admission to the bar to perform 50 hours of pro bono work before being admitted.  The Chief Judge’s announcement immediately raised of host of questions about what kinds of work would count and when the new requirement would begin to apply.

This week, we received a little more information about the requirement, but few answers to the many questions that abound.  On Tuesday, I attended a conference at Cardozo Law School sponsored by the  Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York, a group established by  the Chief Judge to explore the “justice gap” in civil legal services.  Also attending the conference from St. John’s were Peggy Turano (Associate Academic Dean), Larry Cunningham (Associate Dean for Student Services), Ann Goldweber (Director of Clinical Education), and Rachel Andron (Public Interest Center Director).  Needless to say, the conference was dominated by talk of — and questions about — the new pro bono requirement. The New York Law Journal article about the conference, including my caveat that implementing the new requirement will be “a huge undertaking,” is here.

More details, including about timing, after the jump.

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May 25, 2012

Teaching Middle School Students About Our Legal System

With Paul Clagnaz, Principal, St. Brigid/Our Lady of Hope

Earlier this month, St. John’s hosted the annual Catholic Middle School Mock Trial Program, a joint endeavor with St. Brigid/Our Lady of Hope Regional School on Long Island.  Each year for the past several years, over two hundred middle school students have participated in the program.  The students spend weeks preparing their cases and practicing with lawyer coaches and mentors. On the day of the mock trial, they present their cases in a realistic setting with Law School faculty, alumni and friends volunteering as judges.  Faculty, alumni, and other members of the Law School community serve as judges.  The full story and more photos are here.

Each year, I marvel at how well prepared the students are.   They may be only twelve or thirteen years old, but they end up acting like real trial lawyers – thinking on their feet, making their arguments with passion and conviction, and then nervously awaiting the verdict.  It is a wonderful experience for them, as they learn about our legal system, develop their analytical and reasoning skills, practice public speaking, and build up their self-confidence.

St. John’s is pleased to sponsor the program because it fits so well with our Vincentian mission.  First, it is part of the Law School’s commitment to opening up the pipeline to the legal profession  for students who would not otherwise be exposed to these opportunities.  Second, it is part of the University’s commitment to supporting the continuum of Catholic education, especially Catholic elementary and secondary schools in New York.

May 23, 2012

Honors for Prof. Parella and Prof. Baynes

I am pleased to announce two faculty honors.  First, at its meeting earlier this month, the University’s Board of Trustees, upon the unanimous recommendation of the Law School Faculty Council, awarded the title Professor Emeritus to Robert Parella. Prof. Parella retired from full-time teaching last year, after 50 years on the faculty. The Board of Trustees’s resolution noted its “respect, affection and gratitude” for Prof. Parella. Needless to say, we all share the Board’s warm feelings for Bob — and we’re very happy that he continues to teach at the Law School.

Second, upon my recommendation, Provost Julia Upton has named Prof. Leonard Baynes to be the Grand Marshal for the Law School’s Commencement Exercises on June 3.  This is a fitting honor to recognize Len’s many contributions as a teacher, a scholar, and a tireless worker for diversity.  Both St. John’s and the legal profession are better because of Len’s dedication.  He will be joined at Commencement by Faculty Marshal Paul Kirgis (a role traditionally filled by the Professor of the Year) and Student Marshal Andrianna Mavides (a role traditionally filled by the Law Review Editor-in-Chief).
Congratulations — and thank you — to Profs. Parella and Baynes for all they do.
May 22, 2012

Professors of the Year

Professor of the Year Paul Kirgis

St. John’s is blessed with a wealth of excellent teachers.  Each year, our students select one faculty member as the “Professor of the Year.”  In addition, the students also single out other faculty members for recognition. Congratulations to the faculty who were recognized this year:

My thanks to the SBA for organizing the Professor of the Year elections.

May 15, 2012

Carey Center Inaugurates Mangano Grant Program

Judge Mangano, sporting his Belson Medal along with Jerry Belson ’48, ’80HON

Last month, the Hugh L. Carey Center for Dispute Resolution launched the Mangano Grant Program.  Endowed through the generosity of Hon. Guy J. Mangano ’55, ’83HON, the Mangano Grant Program provides grants to St. John’s students and alumni to pursue opportunities and to conduct research in the field of alternative dispute resolution. Mangano Grants support students in their development as dispute resolution practitioners and support alumni who undertake projects that further the Carey Center’s mission of promoting conflict resolution as a value and a practice.

The Mangano Grants are funded by $200,000 endowment given to the Law School by Judge Mangano, the former Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division Second Department and a current neutral mediator and arbitrator.  The Law School was less than thirty years old when a young Guy Mangano arrived as a first-year student in 1952.  For the ensuing sixty years, while Judge Mangano excelled as a public servant, he also remained an integral part of the Law School — as president of our Alumni Association, as an adjunct professor, and as a friend and advisor to many deans (including me).  Judge Mangano has been part of the Law School for more than half of its existence — indeed, he is nearing the 30th anniversay of receiving his honorary degree.  Now, this endowment will ensure that Judge Mangano’s generosity will bless the Law School in perpetuity.

Congratulations to Daniel Merker ’11, Nk Udogwu ’12, Ravin Shah ’13, and Emily Gornell ’13, who are the inaugural Mangano Grant recipients.  The full description of their projects is here.

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