A Message from the Dean

Mark West

This fall, the Law School welcomed a new group of brilliant and eager 1Ls to the Quad. Like generations of students before them, they will spend their time here studying the law—its scope, its applications, and how to argue effectively within its parameters (or, occasionally, change its parameters). They will learn, like you did, to “think like a lawyer,” a phrase that is often used and often misunderstood. That “lawyerthink” sometimes requires us to answer clients’ questions with a clear “no.” But the ability to truly think like a lawyer often compels us to look instead for the “yes, if”—an answer that requires imagination, creativity, and an ability to assess and embrace risk.

The people featured in this issue of the Law Quadrangle understand what it means to think like a lawyer, even if they are not practicing attorneys. They have embraced risk in the halls of Congress, the press, cyberspace, financial markets, and beyond. By daring to be risk takers, they have knocked down seemingly insurmountable barriers and found the “yes, if.”

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, this issue features several alumni who took personal and professional risks in order to alter the social fabric. Male colleagues laughed when female members of Congress spoke on the House floor in 1964 to advocate that the word “sex” be added to the Civil Rights Bill. But Martha Griffiths, ’40, rose to make her speech anyway. Mary Frances Berry, ’70, is perhaps best known for her work on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights—from which she was dismissed. She sued to keep her place, won her lawsuit, was reappointed, and later was named chairperson. And Roger Wilkins, ’56, exposed injustice and inequality throughout his career.

Risk also is a hallmark of entrepreneurship, a field that flourishes at the University of Michigan. Michigan Law is an integral part of this development, thanks in large part to the Zell Entrepreneurship and Law (ZEAL) Program and the Entrepreneurship Clinic. This issue describes a first-of-its-kind technology created by Professor J.J. Prescott and one of his former students, Ben Gubernick, ’11, that allows people who face minor criminal or civil infractions to settle the matters online. We also showcase an Entrepreneurship Clinic alumna, Jamie Loeks Duffield, ’12, who left her firm to start her own clothing company. And Geoff Entress, ’98, isn’t just an entrepreneur; he also is an angel investor—the financial risk here is obvious—who has backed more than 125 companies in the past 15 years.

These stories show that navigating risk requires the sort of skills that Michigan-trained lawyers possess, whether they’re a 1L or celebrating their 50th reunion: the ability to spot an issue, analyze it from multiple angles and with fine-tuned vision, and then work hard to find solutions.

Mark D. West
Nippon Life Professor of Law

© Copyright - The Law Quadrangle, The University of Michigan Law School