A Message fron Dean Nell Jessup Newton - December 8, 2014

Author: Nell Jessup Newton


Dear Alumni and Friends of Notre Dame Law School,

The Notre Dame Law School has had an exciting year, welcoming new students, a new faculty member, and new programs and initiatives. Here are a few highlights from the past year.

First, As Always, Our Students

We traditionally aim to enroll a 1L class of about 180 students. Last year, we enrolled a smaller class of 163. Wanting to be conservative, and given that applications nationwide have declined, we adjusted our plans (and budget) to prepare for a smaller class of around 160 indefinitely.

Yield is always difficult to predict and this year we were surprised and gratified that fewer accepted students “strayed” to other law schools than in past years and instead chose to attend NDLS. In part, this is because we were able to provide additional fellowships thanks to the generosity of so many of our alumni and friends, but additional reasons included our success in helping students find jobs thanks to our NDLS network, our great ranking in federal court clerkships (eighth in the country last year), and many of the new programs and initiatives described below.

As a result we ended up with 200 1L students. They are a lively and exciting group with strong entering predictors and they are already making their mark on the school. What I noticed almost immediately is that they understand the importance of networking early and often and have begun meeting with their career development counselors and contacting Notre Dame lawyers who can help them decide what to practice and where. I hope you will take the phone call or answer the email of a Notre Dame Law student who contacts you!

New Specializations, Programs, and Courses

This year we introduced two new specializations to add to our preexisting ones in Business Law; Criminal Law; Global Law; Law, Ethics & Public Policy; and Public Law.

The first new specialization is an Environmental Law program that helps students prepare for legal practice involving a wide array of issues relating to the science and economics of environmental policy. The second is a new Intellectual Property and Technology Law program that will guide students in the study of core doctrines in intellectual property—such as patent, copyright, trademark, and unfair competition—as well as related fields including design, antitrust, and cyber law. Our Intellectual and Entrepreneurship clinic, a key part of the program, continues to thrive. Numerous grads have pointed to this innovative clinical experience as critical to their success in securing good IP-related jobs.

In keeping with our focus on the globalization of law, we have welcomed more international students to the law school. Foreign students bring fresh perspectives and invaluable experiences to our classrooms even as we equip them with a fundamental understanding of American law and culture. For many years we have offered an LLM in Human Rights, but this this year we also began offering an individually tailored LLM in South Bend in addition to the LLM that has been in London for many years. Unlike the Human Rights LLM, with its focus on human rights, the new LLM students select JD courses that fit their needs and interests and attend class and study with their JD classmates. We all benefit from the resulting diversity. The inaugural South Bend LLM class has 8 members: 3 are from China, 1 is from Chile, 1 is from Lebanon, 1 is from France, 1 is from Hungary, and 1 is from South Korea.

This summer we are trying something new in London as well. Our Summer London program, which is also open to students from other law schools and countries, traditionally lasted 6 weeks in the middle of summer. Our summer 2015 program, on the other hand, will be a 3-week intensive program focusing on Intellectual Property Law. Professor Mark McKenna is heading up this summer’s endeavor, which has also been moved to the end of the season to better accommodate students’ summer jobs, internships, and job-interview schedules.

Advances in Technology

One of the most exciting curriculum developments over the past year is the direct result of our faculty and students’ mutual embrace of the sophisticated video technology that now seamlessly connects our students in London, Chicago, and South Bend with off-campus instructors, guest speakers, and subject matter experts. After careful experimentation last year, guest speakers and experts now routinely join our class discussions from remote locations. This fall, former FEC Chair Trevor Potter (who is also an attorney for Stephen Colbert) visited Professor Lloyd Mayer’s election law class from his office in Washington, D.C., and Professor McKenna used Google+ to bring Fred von Lohmann, Google Inc.’s legal director for copyright in Mountain View, California, to his copyright class.

Today, classes can even be co-taught by two professors who take turns appearing in-person and by video. This fall, for example, Indiana Supreme Court Justice Steven David (in Indianapolis) and Adjunct Professor James Zieba (in South Bend) have been co-teaching a course in military law. When Justice David is teaching by video from Indianapolis, Professor Zieba is in our South Bend class in person. When Justice David is in South Bend, Professor Zieba participates by video.

The Law School’s top-of-the-line equipment and talented IT staff—and careful oversight by our highly skilled audio video technicians—ensure that the classroom experience is truly interactive for both student and instructor.

Here’s an example of how it works. When NDLS Adjunct Professor Chuck Roth (the director of litigation at Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center in Chicago) is in Chicago teaching his immigration law class to our ND Law in Chicago students, for example, NDLS students in South Bend also participate. When Professor Roth displays a PowerPoint slide in our Chicago classroom, the same slide appears simultaneously on one of the large flat screens in our South Bend classroom while Roth continues to appear on two additional flat screens on either side of the PowerPoint. When a South Bend student wants to ask a question, she pushes a button at her seat. The camera that had been displaying the entire South Bend classroom to Professor Roth and our Chicago students automatically zooms in to focus on the South Bend questioner so that Professor Roth and his Chicago classroom can see who is speaking. The microphone by the student’s seat picks up her question perfectly, and when she is done the camera automatically pulls back to display the entire South Bend classroom again. Students are giving very high marks to this experience, which provides them with an expanded curriculum thanks to our increased access to the talented adjunct professors who live in Chicago and other cities.

ND Law in Chicago and D.C.

Having already increased our live client clinics and skills courses and expanded our externship relationships with agencies and nonprofits in northern Indiana, we have added placements in corporate counsel offices and regulatory agencies in Chicago and now in D.C., with the D.C. program also offering externships in congressional offices.

Like our Chicago program did in 2012, our new D.C. initiative will begin as a pilot program. We are set to begin with about five students, with Assistant Dean Janet Laybold traveling to D.C. to teach an externship seminar course. D.C. students will videoconference in to Professor Bill Kelley’s South Bend course in Legislation and Regulation. The D.C. office of Kirkland & Ellis is donating a high-tech conference room to the cause, and we will use that as our D.C. classroom. There has been a strong showing of interest in this venture from students in all three NDLS classes anxious to secure externships in our nation’s capital, and we are very optimistic about its success. (See law.nd.edu/news/52985.)


We have worked hard to build a first-rate Career Development Office and fill it with talented and experienced legal career counselors. We believe these efforts are paying off well in what remains a difficult market.

Part of the career support we offer is financial. We are proud to continue our successful Public Service Initiative that enables our grads to secure bridge employment in the legal field while they search for and secure a permanent legal position. And equally important, we are determined not to let law school loan obligations prevent any of our graduates from pursuing a public service career if that is the career they wish to have.

Last year I noted that we have been working to grow the LRAP endowment. Today I am delighted to report that this endowment now stands at nearly $9 million and recently passed the $1 million mark in disbursements to NDLS graduates.

The LRAP program loans NDLS grads the funds with which to repay qualifying student debt and then forgives those loans over a 3-year period. Graduates can sign up for an additional period of up to 10 years. (For more, see law.nd.edu/news/53081.)

As of Nov. 1, 2014, 82.1% of our recent graduates had already found long-term, full-time jobs that require bar passage or for which a JD is an advantage. We are actively working with the 20 students still seeking employment and expect these numbers will continue to improve.

Faculty News

First, I am very sorry to inform you of the death of our friend and colleague Professor Emeritus Robert E. Rodes Jr., who passed away on November 25, 2014. Our remembrance of Bob is posted at law.nd.edu, and will be adapted for publication in the next issue of the Notre Dame Law Review.

In much happier news, the University has appointed Professor A.J. Bellia to serve as the inaugural O’Toole Professor of Constitutional Law. The new endowed chair was created by a significant gift from Judge Thomas W. and Elaine S. O’Toole of Phoenix, Arizona, to support the study and teaching of constitutional law at NDLS. Judge O’Toole, who obtained his BA from Notre Dame and his LLB from the University of Arizona, long served with distinction on the Maricopa County Superior Court.

A.J. is a leading architect of the Public Law program at NDLS that has, among other things, helped us place in the top ten schools in the nation for percentage of grads securing federal clerkships. In 2014, 11% of our grads clerked for federal judges.

In addition, Professor Amy Coney Barrett was appointed to the Diane and M.O. Miller, II Research Professorship (see law.nd.edu/news/53143), and Jay Tidmarsh was awarded a football at the North Carolina game in recognition of his scholarship (law.nd.edu/news/53208). All three are outstanding and much-loved teachers who are also outstanding and productive scholars.

Research by the Notre Dame faculty helps to shape and develop the law in numerous areas from class actions to intellectual property and religious liberty. Notably, Professors Margaret Brinig and Nicole Garnett’s new book, Lost Classroom, Lost Community, has garnered rave reviews from the popular and scholarly communities. The book combines rigorous empirical research with policy prescriptions and argues that closing parochial schools has a detrimental effect on the quality of life in communities. It has become a must-read for anyone concerned about Catholic primary and secondary schools.

In the fall of 2014, Veronica Root became an associate professor, teaching Contracts and professional responsibility. Veronica had been a visiting assistant professor, having left her practice at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Washington, D.C., to come to NDLS in order to explore an interest in teaching. When she decided to become a law professor, we were delighted that she chose NDLS over a number of other law schools who made her offers.

The Judge James J. Clynes Jr. Visiting Chair in the Ethics of Litigation within the Judicial Process enables us to invite distinguished jurists and professors to NDLS to spend time with our students. Last February Associate Justice Clarence Thomas taught a seminar on Religious Freedom and the Establishment Clause with Professor Richard Garnett. Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. joined us in April to participate in a fireside chat with Professor William Kelley, and he was followed by Associate Justice Carol Corrigan of the California Supreme Court, who taught in our Intensive Trial Advocacy program last summer.

Finally, looking ahead to the spring, the former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, will be a visiting professor at NDLS and at the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies, teaching a three-week course on Children’s Rights. President McAleese was a law professor before serving two terms as the President of Ireland (from 1997 to 2011).

On that note, and on behalf of the entire Law School community, thank you for supporting Notre Dame, and may you have a blessed Christmas and happy New Year.


Nell Jessup Newton
Joseph A. Matson Dean and Professor of Law