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Behind the Columns

by john garvey

John GarveyTalking Strategy
A game plan for becoming the best we can be

In 2004 the Law School marks its seventy-fifth anniversary. We opened our doors two weeks before the stock market crash in 1929. It is cause for celebration that we have risen from that inauspicious beginning to become one of America’s two dozen best law schools. It is also an occasion for thinking about how to continue our upward trajectory. We began a strategic planning process two years ago with that thought in mind. The process was ably led by Professor Judith McMorrow. Last September we approved a plan that will help guide the Law School through its next decade of progress.

The central principle informing the plan is simple and obvious—it is a reinforcement of our determination to provide the highest quality legal education to our students. This is still a very personal process. Its principal ingredients are scholarship and teaching, and our standard of excellence in those areas is reflected in our current faculty. But we need to add more scholars of the highest rank (ten over the next decade), support all our faculty in their endeavors, and enable them to impart what they know to our students. As a part of one of the world’s great Jesuit Catholic universities, we have a coordinate concern with the hearts and souls of our students. We want to produce not just good lawyers, but lawyers who lead good lives.

We can be certain that the legal curriculum will grow in breadth and depth. It is harder to guess exactly where the growth will occur. (Who would have foreseen the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or the USA Patriot Act ten years ago?) The strategic plan responds by suggesting four large ideas. First, we should continue support for areas where we have historically excelled, like litigation and tax. Second, we should anticipate more internationalization. Third, Boston’s strengths in financial services and intellectual property are reasons to attend to emerging enterprises in our business curriculum. Fourth, our Jesuit heritage warrants particular attention to public service initiatives and to the intersection of ethics, religion, and public policy.

This expansion of our intellectual life will require more space for faculty and support staff, classrooms and programs, and library holdings. We can also expect new demands for space for student services. Consider this. Since 1950 the Law School’s student body has tripled in size (to 800 students). Our administrative staff has grown three times as fast. This is not unnecessary growth. Today we provide career services, academic services, and computer services. We also support dozens of student organizations and offer counseling through the Dean for Students office. We provide sophisticated financial aid advice, greatly expanded law review and moot court experiences, and broader alumni programs. Our admissions office processes thousands more applications. We can expect further growth in many of these areas, and a concomitant need for space, including for student housing. The strategic plan emphasizes that this housing deficiency must be addressed if we want to compete for students in a national market.

The growth in our programs, personnel, and space will also call for an expansion of our development efforts. In the last four years the Law School Fund (our annual giving program) has risen by 60 percent, topping $1 million for the first time last year. Now, to provide a permanent foundation for the strategic plan, we need to make a comparable advance in our program for capital giving.

This is an ambitious program, but it is one worthy of the place we occupy in the American legal system.