December 2013 Letter to Alumni

 
Dear Friends of Albany Law School,

Happy Holidays! As the 2013 year comes to a close, I’d like to share with you my reflections on the past semester and discuss our opportunities moving forward.

In order to be innovative and viable, an institution has to pause on occasion, to look critically at itself—at its mission, at the wellbeing of its community, at the services it provides—and rethink its present and future. Albany Law finds itself doing so once again. We are 162 years old. We have survived a civil war, two world wars, an economic depression and several steep recessions. We are historically resilient, and as the oldest independent law school in the nation, we are a venerable institution. But, that statement defines only a piece of who we are today.

Today, we are a law school focused on our students and focused on the future. For the past three months we have been immersed in creating a strategic plan. Board members, faculty members, staff and students have been talking, thinking and writing about the state of the school today and how to best advance into the future. We have turned a critical eye to our strengths and weaknesses, to the challenges that we face, and to the opportunities that these challenges spawn.

All of this analysis is being done in the context of the current legal market, which raises a number of questions. How strong, relevant and innovative is our program of legal education?  What size should our student body be? Are we preparing our graduates appropriately for practice and successful careers? Should we be offering an accelerated two-year program, and if so, will graduates leave Albany Law School prepared to practice in their chosen careers in the law? The Board of Trustees will soon consider our strategic plan, and, when agreed upon and approved, it will be distributed to the Albany Law School community.

While we have talked to many graduates of all decades during the process, I welcome any concerns you may want the strategic plan to address, particularly if you feel your voice has not been heard. Please feel free to contact me at pandrews@albanylaw.edu or 518-445-2321.

Please allow me to highlight some of the news from the Law School for the past semester:

Class of 2016

This year’s class is 180 students strong from a pool of 1,200 applicants. We decreased in size a bit, but did so with quality in mind to keep our academic indicators on par with previous years.

 

Chairman Dan Nolan
Our new Chair of the Board of Trustees is Dan Nolan, president of Hugh Johnson Advisors, an investment firm managing $2 billion in assets. Dan comes to us as a leader with an exciting and unique perspective, having never practiced conventional law. Rather, he attended Albany Law School to bring the discipline of a legal education to a financial and entrepreneurial career. For the past 10 years Dan has also been the Board Chair for the College of Saint Rose, where he led $100 million of investments to improve the campus. He plans to bring two key achievements to Albany Law School—raising the academic reputation of the school, and strengthening our Board of Trustees. With Dan’s leadership, we know we will achieve great things.

 

My Leadership Team

I’ve worked hard in my first year to assemble an administration team dedicated to making this law school stronger. Alicia Ouellette was promoted to Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Intellectual Life. In this new role, she leads the strategic planning process and is spearheading several curricular reforms and innovative partnerships. Professor Rosemary Queenan has joined the team as Associate Dean for Student Affairs, focused on how student life drives the leadership and professional development of our students. Professor Ray Brescia was appointed the Director of the Government Law Center and charged with strengthening our programs with state and federal government, innovation and entrepreneurship, and green tech/clean technologies. And I am pleased to have Victor Rauscher (Finance), Nadia Castriota (Admissions), James Kellerhouse (Advancement), Sandra Mans (Career Services), David Singer (Communications & Marketing), and Helane Davis (Library) on my leadership team. Together with the support of a great staff and committed faculty, we are working harder than ever to make Albany Law School an excellent institution.

 

Bar Passage
We are continuing to work hard to improve the level of bar passage that will continue to allow Albany Law graduates to achieve their professional goals. For the Class of 2013, 134 students representing 80% of first-time takers passed the New York Bar exam. Regrettably, 34 members of the Class of 2013 who took the New York bar exam did not pass. This bar result represents a slight decrease from last year, which was 81.5%. Please rest assured that moving forward Dean Alicia Ouellette and I are engaging in concerted action to improve the situation. I have taken over the supervision of all bar-related activity. Drawing on the resources and expertise of others in legal education, engagement with other New York law school deans, and with the commitment and support of the faculty, I have mandated some institutional changes, ensuring that bar passage is our number one institutional priority. I have also appointed a bar task force with three faculty members and three alumni to work on strategy to improve our bar passage as a matter of urgency.

Join me in congratulating those members of the Class of 2013 who passed the bar exam. We are proud and excited for them as they pursue their chosen paths in the law.


Job Market for Recent Graduates

As you are no doubt aware, the legal job market continues to be challenging. Even so, there are some good opportunities for law school graduates. Entry-level law jobs have been decreasing for the past several years, but the decrease seems to have leveled off, and in some areas improved. Many of our students last year were as dogged in their job searches as they were in their law studies, and have landed impressive positions, including a number of federal and state judicial clerkships, positions in federal and state agencies and in law firms. In fact, the quality of jobs secured by the Class of 2013 was more robust than usual, and that gives cause for optimism. The 2014 summer employment picture for our students also tells a positive story.
           

Finding new employment possibilities for our graduates, being mindful of the shrinking and the changing legal employment market, and generating creative ways to think about the career paths of our graduates, has been a major priority for me as Dean. To this end, I have worked closely with the Careers Center to insure that it has the institutional support and resources necessary to assist our students and graduates in the best possible way. Many members of our faculty continue to work tirelessly with the Career Center to read students’ resumes and cover letters, conduct mock job interviews, and to reach out to their former students who are now employers. Their assistance and support is critical to the employment success of our graduates.

 

To give our students optimal opportunities in the job market, we have continued to seek partnerships with business and the public sector. For example, we have partnered with the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) to allow students to work with startup companies, help develop products from idea to commercialization, work in a Tech Transfer Practicum, and extern at the CNSE Office of Technology Innovation and Commercialization.  The CNSE believes the partnership to be the first of its kind in the country. We are excited about this initiative, and both schools see it as the start of a long-term and larger relationship. We are also expanding our joint degree programs in business, health, technology, and social work, and are exploring increased opportunities in immigration law.

 

Special Events

A law school should be vibrant, regularly generating activity that challenges one’s principles, and inspires public debate. To that end, we are proud of our students and faculty this year. The publishing record of our faculty remains strong, and books abound, including “Love Beneath the Napalm” (University of Notre Dame Press), a book of short stories on Vietnam from Professor Redwood that won the Notre Dame Book Award; “Kosher: Private Regulation in the Age of Industrial Food” (Harvard University Press) from Professor Tim Lytton; and my book, “From Cape Town to Kabul: Rethinking Strategies for Pursuing Women’s Human Rights” (Ashgate Publishing). Professors Ira Bloom, David Pratt and Patrick Connors also continue to publish the leading texts in New York practice, tax and trusts and estates law.

Several events worth noting from the fall semester include: The Albany Law Review’s symposium on hydraulic fracturing (fracking); the Science and Technology Journal’s event on social media and employment law; the Dean’s Book Series, which features nine prominent authors from around the country to speak on their work; a joint conference with University at Albany on women of the Middle East; a full day on the economics, politics and regulation of sustainable meat production; and the Hugh Jones Memorial Lecture, which featured retired Judge Carmen Ciparick, an introduction from Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, and attendance from all of the Court of Appeals members.

Community Support

Once again, the support you have given to the students of this school is overwhelming. The Albany Law Annual Fund surpassed $1 million for a fourth consecutive year. Several of you gave gifts to establish new endowments: for student scholarships, for student prizes, and for faculty lectures as a tribute to the late Professor Katheryn Katz. Each gift is a tangible expression of support for your law school – and it is my hope that with all we have accomplished and all that we aspire to do, I can count on your continued generosity. What we do best is evident in your success, and we intend to thrive for another century focused on offering those same rich experiences to the next class of students.

 

Thank you all for supporting your alma mater. This is your school and your generosity is deeply appreciated. Enjoy the holidays – we hope to see you in 2014.