Opening Doors

The Future of Courtroom Technology

The Union of
Church and State

In a Class by Itself

As Seen by the Dean

GW Law Briefs
Public Interest Corner
Faculty File
International Update


Alumni Events

Law Newsmakers

Contact Us
Alumni Association
Law Alumni Association
GW News Center

By Michael K. Young

The Right Stuff

It took four days and three extraordinary men to get there, and the world stood amazed. The year was 1969, and man set foot on the moon. I am sure we all remember exactly what we were doing that day. I was only a few months into what would turn out to be a two-and-a-half year stay in Japan, sitting in a barber’s chair. I don’t know whether it was the headiness of the luxury of receiving my first professional shave or just my more general tendency to make the wrong joke at the wrong time, but, as we all watched in wonder, I turned to the assembled patrons of the shop and confidently pronounced that now that Americans had set foot on the moon, we “owned” it. Possession is, after all, nine points in the law. Needless to say, the Japanese, who revere the moon and all its beauty and have written thousands of poems to that effect over the centuries, were much less amused than I thought they should be. And just as the initially muted objections to my observation reached a deafening crescendo, I realized I had mortally insulted a man who was, at that very instant, holding a razor to my throat. After the barber was appropriately disarmed by my companions, I profusely apologized in broken Japanese and vowed to cut my own hair ever after.

But, over the years, as I have reflected on that extraordinary event, I realized the obvious. What had culminated so gloriously on that summer day with the step of a single man had, in fact, taken years of planning, testing, screening of theories and people, and experimenting with the latest technology. It also took hundreds of people, all working toward a common goal. But it worked and, in the process, astonished the world, as perhaps no other event in history has. I believe it worked because, as Tom Wolfe so colloquially, yet eloquently put it, they all had the right stuff.

“The technology of our courtrooms and the example of our professors will become the norm of the 21st century. ”

Of course, what we have done here at GW Law over the past few years isn’t quite so astonishing (though it sometimes seems as difficult). Like the astronauts who astounded the world, we have gone through a process of trying out the latest ideas, installing state-of-the-art technology, creating world-class academic and instructional programs, and securing the minds and energy of hundreds of the most talented people around. And now we are poised for an unprecedented breakthrough in growth and productivity, all because we too have the services of people who have the right stuff.

Last spring, we heralded the opening of our new facility at 700 20th Street; this fall, we celebrate the completion of the Jacob Burns Moot Court Room and the refurbished lobby space that surrounds it. This renovation greatly benefits our faculty and students on a daily basis in classes and seminars. It also will be used by us and the National Center for State Courts as a Washington, D.C.-based international technology laboratory to train foreign lawyers and judges. As a result of our partnership with the National Center for State Courts, the Burns Moot Court Room features “smart boards,” “smart podiums,” Internet access, dual video projection capability, including individual screens for jurors, voice-activated transcription, and a state-of-the-art sound system. These advancements, in combination with our previously completed high-technology classrooms, mean that we have the right stuff to train our students, our alumni, and hundreds of judges who will spread the concept and the reality of the rule of law all around the world. The technology of our courtrooms and the example of our professors will become the norm of the 21st century.

The incoming class of students is also as impressive as any we have ever had. We received 10,800 applications for this year’s class—a statistic that informs us that one in every eight applicants to U.S. law schools applied to GW Law—23 applicants for every seat in the entering class! Their academic records are outstanding, as usual, and the median LSAT score has gone up one point for the second straight year in a row, an almost 5 percent increase in mean LSAT in just two years—unprecedented for a school of our size!

We remain enormously proud of the diversity of this entering class, too. More than 35 percent of the class is self-declared members of a minority group and, for the first time in the history of the school, more than half of the entering students are women. And they bring extraordinary accomplishment and richness to the school. They have held important policy positions in the government, have been reporters on TV and for newspapers, done significant scientific research, and had careers in sports and the arts. We have 11 PhDs, 61 holders of master’s degrees, someone who was second in command on a nuclear submarine, a cancer researcher, a jazz pianist, and a former bouncer for the Lizard Lounge. These students bring the depth of their backgrounds to the classroom, to their study groups and to their collaborations with all of us to make the experience of just being here an education in itself. We have the right students.

We also graduate the right students. More than 96 percent of our students this year had secured employment at the time of graduation, and at an average starting salary of more than $97,000. Our students entered major law firms, as well as public interest organizations, federal and state agencies and departments, and major corporations all over the country, and indeed the world. We had our largest number of students ever secure judicial clerkships on federal and state courts. We are particularly proud to report that one of our graduating students, Courtney Gilligan, accepted a clerkship opportunity with the chief justice of the United States. Our graduating students really do have the right stuff.

The faculty also is remarkably fine. In the past few years we have hired more than three dozen professors from major schools all over the country, including the University of Texas, two from Columbia, the University of Virginia, Tulane, the University of North Carolina, Boston University, and the University of San Diego. Our young faculty is equally impressive. Three of our young faculty members are included in the list of the 50 most cited young faculty members in the country, including one who is the fifth most cited young professor in the country. And one of our most recent hires, Orin Kerr, was featured in an article in The New York Times just a few weeks ago as one of the most important commentators on the Patriot Act and its privacy provisions. Our professors lead major research projects in law and religion, corporate responsibility, the history of racial discrimination in the United States, regional growth and environmental protection, family law, federalism, and dispute resolution. We have the right faculty for GW Law School.

We also have the right services for our students. After residing in temporary space for several years, our Career Development Office has now moved into space commensurate with its importance to the Law School. The new CDO office, located in the heart of the Law School, was designed with professionalism and service to our students as the paramount considerations. Our CDO director and his large complement of career counselors not only have vast counseling experience, but also most are lawyers with first-hand knowledge of the job search process and the resources necessary to conquer the marketplace. And, once again, the technology that pervades all of our lives is used to the fullest advantage by our CDO. Students peruse job postings, upload their resumes, schedule interviews, and engage in mock practice interviews, all online. Our students deserve the best jobs, and the CDO is in the right place and has the right people to help each one achieve the job of his or her dreams.

In the pages of this magazine, we can only give you a taste of what is going on at the law school you thought you knew. I hope that you can share in our excitement over our new space, our marvelous students, our incredibly impressive faculty, and the technology that touches everything that we do. The technology can even touch you: Check out our Web site, as well as the new alumni Web pages that have been developed especially for your use.

But nothing substitutes for seeing the right stuff first hand. Please, come back and see for yourself. It hasn’t been quite like putting a man on the moon, but I think you will be astonished nonetheless.

Michael K. Young
Dean and Lobingier Professor of Comparative Law and Jurisprudence

Back to top | Fall 2002 Table of Contents