A Message from Dean West

A Curricular Leap Forward

Mark D. West, Dean Nippon Life Professor of Law

Our Law School is enriched by the wide variety of interests and career paths that our graduates pursue. This issue of Law Quadrangle features a newsman-turned-activist, a software development entrepreneur, and lawyers who negotiate deals on behalf of clients that range from celebrities to tuna.

This diversity of pursuits has increased as more of our students take time off between their undergraduate and professional educations. This year, only 25 percent of our entering class went straight through from undergrad to Michigan Law—a sharp decline from years past. Although matriculating students still view a law degree as a way to keep their options open as they explore career paths, many more students now arrive in the Quad with a clear plan of how a Michigan degree will benefit their future careers and with significant experiences that have influenced those goals.

At Michigan Law, we have a core responsibility to educate our students in the fundamentals of the law and legal reasoning that have trained generations. But we also must give students flexibility to define their law school experience so that it serves a wide range of individual goals. The curriculum reforms that you’ll read about here reflect our commitment to rigorous foundational training, our adaptability to new standards mandated by the American Bar Association, and our resolve to keep Michigan Law a place that encourages intellectual exploration, both within the Law School and across our great University. It is essential, of course, that students learn how to think like lawyers in our traditional curriculum. But students also should have the ability to take advantage of all that Michigan offers, whether that be Accounting, Patent Law, Bloodfeuds, Chinese Law, a clinic, a practice simulation, or whatever piques their interest, broadens their perspective, and prepares them for life beyond the Law Quad.

I am very excited about our curricular leap forward. The increased flexibility that the newly tweaked curriculum provides reflects years of input from students, alumni, and practitioners, as well as careful study on the part of the Law School’s curriculum committee. I am grateful to the committee for its diligent work, to the faculty who have embraced the changes, and to those who cared enough about this school to share their thoughts and help frame our approach.

I also am grateful for all that makes Michigan Law such an interesting, robust place—one where a future litigation partner at a large firm and the future leader of a nonprofit together hone their leadership skills as the heads of a student organization, or respectfully debate in the halls. At Michigan Law, faculty and students come together with many different experiences, learn from each other, and then use their knowledge in different yet important ways. I couldn’t be more proud of what transpires here and where it leads our graduates.

Mark D. West
Nippon Life Professor of Law

The Future is Now

“Imagine a world,” began a story in the spring 1966 Law Quadrangle Notes, “in which a lawyer in Ishpeming, Michigan, can press a button and have the contents of any volume in the Harvard Law Library reprinted at his fingertips. Imagine a world in which a student can have flashed on a television screen before him any legal article just minutes after its completion by the author. Impossible? ‘Not at all,’ says Professor Arthur R. Miller. ‘The technology already is here. All we need is legally trained personnel to apply the technology to transform the legal materials into a machine-readable form for storage in computers.’”