From the Dean
Sun Mar 29 2015 09:24:51 From the Dean | Dean Toni Massaro - Updated 13.12.05
Dean Massaro
  This in itself isn’t new. What is new is that complex and previously opaque issues are now discussed endlessly (and often poorly) on 24-hour television stations, talk radio programs, and internet websites. The umpires of legal debates today are not exclusively law trained professionals or even individuals with extensive knowledge of legal history or principles. Communications technology has also invited another significant phenomenon: the globalization of law and policy.

All of this has changed public perceptions about law, with implications for our courts, our students, and legal education. Here are a few of my thoughts.

First, the popularization of law has created an ambitious set of expectations about the law and lawyers. It has democratized law in some positive ways. But it also has led to some profound misunderstandings about the courts, the rule of law, and the role of lawyers. Nuance is critical in each domain, but is not the hallmark of some popular news media.

We thus have a growing need for public leadership in matters of law and policy, lest unnuanced bromides drive policy outcomes, rather than thoughtful, fact-based analyses that will help us all navigate a complex domestic and international environment. Serving clients and society well in these times means knowing more about the world, knowing more about a particular area of law, and knowing how to faithfully serve the broadest interests of justice in a world increasingly skeptical of legal institutions. It also means assuming leadership roles in public debates about law.

How do we prepare our students to become public leaders of distinction in this new environment? How do we assure that they will model reasoned debate, respect for facts, and recognition of the many strengths of our system of courts, an independent judiciary, and the rule of law? How do we also provide them with the global perspectives that are increasingly relevant even to domestic matters of law and policy?

First and foremost, we introduce our students to the proud traditions of law and its foundational virtues. We teach them respect for facts and commitment to reasoned discourse. We bring new perspectives, philosophies, and pedagogy to the College to challenge these assumptions and broaden these horizons. We soon will build a new Law Commons that will facilitate student learning, collaboration, and exchange in a high tech, globally connected world. We maintain six student clinics that serve more than 400 clients every year that give our students face to face exposure with some of our community’s most serious socio-legal problems. We also support our students throughout with mentoring, financial assistance, and our small section program. In our view, students who are engaged by a rigorous intellectual community and exposed to an accessible array of perspectives and learning methods will be better able to use their individual talents to benefit the profession and our diverse world. In short, when they find their lives in the law, they become better civic, professional, and even global leaders.

This year alone, students in the UA Law community will learn from a Nobel Peace Prize winner, a United States Supreme Court jurist, two former State Supreme Court jurists, and many faculty members internationally known in their fields. Some will argue a criminal appeal before the Ninth Circuit, others will help the members of an indigenous community create a legal infrastructure. All will use the world-class resources of the University of Arizona to develop the skills they need to manage complex problems, create workable public policy, and serve those in need.

We believe that all of this will better prepare them for still another task: to be strong voices in today’s sharp-pitched debates about the rule of law and the operation of our legal system. Public discourse must – simply must – move away from empty sound bites to deeper and more thoughtful discussions of the problems facing American courts and jurisprudence. We expect our graduates to be leaders here as well, and to accept the responsibility that comes with the privilege of a legal education.

Given the prominence of attacks on judges, courts, lawyers, and law, this task is an urgent one. Given the importance of the task, however, we cannot fail. I have great confidence in our students’ ability to make a positive difference. Together, we can – we must – succeed. Stay tuned.

Dean Massaro's Signature
Toni M. Massaro
Dean & Milton O. Riepe Chair in Constitutional Law
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