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News from a “Destination Conscious” College

Emerging research about the brain suggests that the ability to set and achieve goals is a far more complex and mysterious process than previously thought. A so-called “executive function” in the brain coordinates thousands of mental and physical efforts to complete a series of concrete tasks, all the while evaluating how they contribute to a larger goal. Good executive functioning allows one to “maintain a mental image of a destination,” say researchers: Deficiencies create “future-blindness.”

I think this is an apt analogy to the way the law school pursues its goals. We marshall resources from diverse places and scores of different people to fulfill our missions. Sometimes we’re not even sure precisely where – or how far – a single step will take us, but we try to keep close to heart, and top of mind, our destinations. There are purposeful shifts, inadvertent digressions, and many other chances to get off track. Still, two recent examples suggest that our “executive function” works well.

Massaro

Several weeks ago, the American College of Trial Lawyers selected the James E. Rogers College of Law as the nation’s top trial advocacy education program. The prestigious Emil Gumpert Award, which will be presented here in January 2004, validates a series of decisions made at the College over the last three decades to address the gap between the study and the practice of law. No one has been more forward thinking in that regard than Professor Thomas Mauet, our Trial Advocacy Program Director. His hand in preparing law students to effectively represent their clients is legendary: Tens of thousands of copies of his pioneering works, Trial Techniques and Pre-Trial Techniques, have been sold in the 25 years since his first book was published. Countless copies rest, well-thumbed, on practitioners’ bookshelves long after the memory of the bar exams has dimmed, a testament to the usefulness of his work. Beyond books, Tom has been a true coach and counselor for the thousands of students who have crossed his path. We are all the better for it.

His career leads the developmental curve of trial advocacy programs. Tom identified a need, convinced others of its enormous value, identified ways to innovate within very traditional curricula, and tenaciously set about to achieve his goals. The College of Law, his colleagues, and his students continue to profit from his vision. In 2004, he will undoubtedly continue to lead the field with a yet-unnamed book on jury techniques. Please join me in congratulating Tom and his talented adjunct faculty for a job well done.

If that example demonstrates the very long-term payoff of “destination consciousness,” I offer another with a shorter trajectory. Pages 7-14 of this Newsletter explore the dimensions of our Intellectual Property Law Program. This program has come into its own quickly, in large part because of the critical demand for highly skilled intellectual property lawyers. We identified intellectual property as a growing need, and an area with ready applicability to our work in other areas, such as international trade and indigenous peoples law and policy. We were able to add two “rising stars” to our faculty in 2001. Graeme Austin and David Adelman have constructed a program that is attracting attention nationwide. We’ve moved quickly but thoughtfully, focusing on those areas in which we can deliver excellence.

As we retool our state and national economies, law schools are being called upon to prove their value to their communities and their society. The most successful among us will be those who understand the dimensions of the “idea economy” and – as critically – how to communicate ideas to others. Our College recognizes this and is working to assure that our graduates are well prepared for the new dynamics of the “idea economy.”

As always, thanks to you for your continued support of the College and its students. We could not reach our new destinations without you.

Toni Massaro
Dean Toni Massaro

       

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