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More Than Ever, Community Counts

It was my great pleasure to welcome faculty, fellow students, and almost 5,000 family and friends to commemorate the momentous occasion of the GW Law School graduation of 2009 and its associated weekend of activities. Every year I am amazed by the excitement and pure joy associated with the Law School Commencement. This year’s graduation was no exception—we are all proud of the successes and significant accomplishments of this smart, involved, and focused group in the culmination of their legal education at GW Law School. We all are justly pleased about their achievements and eagerly look forward to their outstanding professional careers as they join the employment ranks of our great GW Law alumni.

This year we were privileged to welcome Hon. Gregory Garre, JD ’91, the distinguished former solicitor general of the United States, to present the Commencement address. I am delighted that we continued our tradition of honoring one of our own alumni to address our graduates. He is a prime example of the many successes and accomplishments of our GW Law graduates.

I must tell you, however, that the joy of graduation has been somewhat tempered by the uncertain economic news throughout the legal community. As the economy has slowed, young attorneys—our graduates included—face the worst decline in employment opportunities in a generation. Some of the nation’s largest law firms that have recruited and hired GW Law graduates most consistently over the years have cut back on new hires and will bring in smaller first-year classes of associates. Other firms postponed start dates for upwards of a year and, regrettably, a larger number than we would have liked have rescinded job offers. It is commendable that our 2009 graduates have done well in the job market with almost three-quarters of them employed at graduation. In addition to our strong placement in law firms and the public sector, we continue to have great success placing our students in judicial clerkships.

You, our own successful alumni, can assist us greatly in this effort by considering hiring our graduates as well as our current students. The GW Law Career Development Office held more than 90 events last year to help prepare our graduates for the job market, and they stand ready to assist you in identifying appropriate candidates as we work together to help meet their employment needs. Please contact them at 202-994-7340 to discuss employment opportunities for our graduates whenever and wherever you can. In times like these, your support is even more critical and valuable. On page 36 you will find additional information about how GW Law can help students and alumni during these unstable economic times.

On a more upbeat note, it is my great pleasure to announce that the Law School recently received a significant contribution of $3 million from the Annette M. and Theodore N. Lerner Family Foundation. This generous gift endows the newly established deanship for Public Interest and Public Service Law (please see page 50). I am immensely proud and pleased to report that Alan Morrison, a renowned Supreme Court litigator and co-founder (with Ralph Nader) of Public Citizen Litigation Group, has accepted the position of Lerner Family Associate Dean for Public Interest and Public Service Law. Morrison is virtually the founding father of public interest law and is an innovative thinker with ambitious goals for promoting, strengthening, and expanding our pro bono and public service programs. He is passionate about our graduates committing some portion of their professional career to the public sector. As you will read in his introductory speech, Morrison indicated that he wants GW Law known as the premier law school for public interest/public sector law. I look forward to working with him accomplish this goal.

Lastly, I have heard from a number of alumni expressing concern about our U.S. News ranking. When viewed over time, it is clear that the rankings for most law schools move either up or down on a regular basis; additionally, the magazine periodically changes the methodology it uses to rank law schools. Sudden and sometimes dramatic changes in rankings obviously do not reflect sudden and dramatic changes in reality. I can assure you that, regardless of rankings, the national and international reputation of GW Law School remains intact. I am delighted that we continue to prosper and attract highly qualified students who will receive one of the finest legal educations in the nation.

Thank you all for the many ways in which you support our efforts. Your dedication and commitment make possible all that we do. I look forward to seeing many of you either here in Washington or in my travels around the country.

Frederick M. Lawrence
Dean and Robert Kramer Research Professor of Law