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TCL > November 2002 Issue > Be True to Our Law Schools

November 2002       Vol. 31, No. 11       Page  19
CBA President's Message to Members

Be True to Our Law Schools
by John E. Moye

How fortunate we are to have two of the best law schools in the country within our state borders. The University of Colorado School of Law ("CU School of Law") and the University of Denver College of Law ("DU College of Law") have educated and prepared thousands of Colorado lawyers to practice law. Each institution boasts a national alumni representation among the finest law firms, the highest government positions, and most prestigious other occupations. Although all of us have personal affinities for our own alma maters, we also must recognize the contributions of our Colorado law schools to the richness of the legal profession in the communities in which we practice.

Right now, both the CU School of Law and DU College of Law are engaged in capital fund-raising for new law school facilities. Their normal funding sources will be stretched to the limit, especially when both institutions are seeking donated funds during many other capital campaigns and in an uncertain economy. As members of the legal profession who live and work in the communities that are so enhanced by the presence and the reputations of our local law schools, we have an obligation to help them achieve their goals in whatever way we can. They are deserving neighbors for our support because they make major contributions to our communities in their sensitivity to diversity, their publications, the creativity of their faculties, and the quality of their student bodies, not to mention their devotion to civic and community programs to educate and represent the public interest. Let me describe some of the impressive details about our law schools.

The CU School of Law

The CU School of Law was established in 1892 and is a charter member of the Association of American Law Schools organized in 1901. The law school is located at the base of the Flatirons, in the Fleming Law Building on the southern edge of the CU campus, and has recently undertaken an extensive capital campaign for a new law school facility. The new Wolf Law Building will create much-needed room for Colorado’s largest law library, will include a second teaching courtroom named in honor of Jim Carrigan, will improve technology across the board, and will provide a suitable home to the state’s only public law school. The new law building also will house a Legal Aid and Defender Program; Natural Resources Law Center; Entrepreneurial Law Center; Byron R. White Center for the Study of American Constitutional Law; offices for the University of Colorado Law Review, Colorado Journal of International Environmental Law and Policy, and Journal on Telecommunications and High Technology Law; and provide space for its broad range of active student organizations.

The CU Law School is national in its orientation, maintaining high standards of academic performance. It admits only students ranking among the nation’s best applicants. For the 2001 entering class, 2,907 applications were received, 649 applicants were offered admission, and 165 students matriculated. Entering students came from twenty-two states and represented ninety-six different undergraduate institutions. Fifty percent were women, and 17 percent were ethnic minorities. U.S. News & World Report’s annual survey of law schools ranks CU Law School at fortieth among 175 accredited law schools, and its environmental program is ranked ninth in the country.1 The CU School of Law also is proud of the following statistics:

• Last year’s student body placed in the top thirty in the nation (median GPA of 3.55; median LSAT of 161).

• This year’s class has a median GPA of 3.63 and a median LSAT of 162.

• Its faculty ranks eighteenth in the nation on the basis of productivity and scholarly impact.

• The CU School of Law ranked ninth in the nation for Hispanics by Hispanic Business (March 2002), based on enrollment, faculty, student services, retention, and reputation.

Graduates of the CU School of Law can be found in every state and many foreign countries, although the majority of its graduates reside in Colorado. Most alumni practice law in private law firms, but many serve as judges, government attorneys and officials, corporate counsel, public interest lawyers, and business people. The CU School of Law engages many of its alumni to assist in training students through the Rothgerber Moot Court Competition, the Carrigan Cup Trial Competition, and a first-year Appellate Advocacy program. Alumni and students share the pride of being "Buffaloes" through Networking Nights, Women in the Law Day, golf tournaments, brown bags, academic symposia, and other fun events. The Law Alumni Board of Directors, comprising twenty-eight alumni, encourages the support and interest of alumni by involving them in the annual Alumni Awards for Distinguished Achievement and the presentation of its highest honor, the William Lee Knous Award, in conjunction with homecoming festivities and class reunions.

The CU School of Law is dedicated to developing the careers of its graduates and to creating career opportunities for lawyers generally. Regionally, the CU School of Law Office of Career Services ("Office") founded the Annual Rocky Mountain Government/Public Interest Career Fair. The Fair will be held in Phoenix in February 2003 and is one of the law school’s many achievements in promoting legal careers in public interest areas. In addition, the Office will host the Fifth Annual Legal Career Options Day in November 2002 and the Annual Career Services Lecture Series with the Colorado Women’s Bar Association in the spring of 2003.

The Office also proposed, initiated, and helped develop the Colorado Pledge to Diversity Law Firm Summer Minority Clerkship Program, launched in the summer of 2001. This program was formally adopted by the Colorado Pledge to Diversity Law Firm Group, consisting of eighteen of Denver’s largest and most prestigious law firms. This program affords law students of color the opportunity to compete for first-year summer associate positions and provides a built-in recruiting tool for minority students and attorneys nationwide. The Pledge to Diversity Program provides law firms a competitive advantage with minority-owned businesses in Colorado and the nation.

Moreover, in placing judicial clerkship positions, the CU School of Law is one of the top five state law schools in the country. In the past two years, an average of 18 percent of CU graduates were selected for federal and state judicial clerkships.

The new law school building at the University of Colorado is planned to cost $39 million. To date, approximately, $6.7 million has been committed in pledges and cash received toward the new building, with a total goal of $12.8 million. The students have committed to a tuition differential that will secure loans of $5.6 million for the new building. The state of Colorado has committed more than $20 million in state appropriations toward the new building fund. However, economic downturns have resulted in reduced state revenues, which, in turn, have slowed legislative appropriations considerably. Especially with the budget cuts in state funding, CU needs our private contributions more than ever.

DU College of Law

Founded in 1892, the DU College of Law has been a traditional leader in the development of market-ready skills for its graduates. The law school was the first (since 1904) to operate a student law clinic involving representation of low-income clients at no cost, as well as the first to implement a program involving the teaching of substantive law classes in Spanish. The law school also has the only civil rights clinic that specializes in studying racial profiling and was the recent recipient of the Clinical Legal Education Association Award in 2002 for a project on combating predatory lending.

Innovation and quality go together. The DU College of Law jumped to the second tier of ranked law schools in the annual U.S. News & World Report rankings.2 The reputation of the law school has increased dramatically in the rankings by other judges and lawyers; for example, the environmental law program ranked seventeenth in the nation, and programs in tax law tied for twenty-second place.

The quality and diversity of the faculty and student body has continued to increase. According to Forrest Stanford, Assistant Dean of Admissions, applications to the DU College of Law have nearly doubled in a two-year period, while most law schools have increased at only a small fraction of that. Last year’s first-year class included 25 percent people of color, a percentage that increased to 33 percent for this year’s class. In particular, during the last two years, the law school ranked in the top ten law schools in the admission of Native Americans. Diversity extends with equal vigor to the faculty. Among the permanent and visiting faculty, the law school currently has nine people of color and fifteen women.

The DU College of Law also continues to revise the curriculum in an effort to better prepare students for the practice of law. These efforts include the addition of classes designed to teach writing in practical circumstances. For example, the law school has augmented traditional trial practice classes by offering courses on drafting pretrial motions. Similarly, the curriculum provides students with the opportunity to develop a substantive expertise in a number of different areas. The schedule contains more than a dozen class offerings in each of business law, natural resources/environmental law, criminal law/evidence, and international law and business.

In its new law building on the University Park campus in Denver, the DU College of Law will have an unprecedented opportunity to offer the next generation of legal professionals and scholars a true twenty-first-century legal education, providing a curriculum that is rigorous, innovative, and technologically sophisticated. The law center will combine the best features of other nationally known law centers with western traditions. The building will house 181,000 square feet of academic, library, and meeting space, including seventeen class and seminar rooms. Two moot court rooms will be technologically advanced, and office space will be provided for the law school’s pioneering clinical programs, student law journals, and student organizations. The classrooms will all be "smart" with wireless direct access to network connections planned at every seat.

Moreover, the DU College of Law has undertaken a courageous and innovative approach to its curriculum and pedagogy. Assembling a committee of students, faculty, alumni, practitioners, judges, and business leaders, the law school has developed and adopted a new strategic plan. I have had the privilege of chairing that committee and presenting the strategic plan to the faculty and administration. The implementation subcommittees of faculty, students, and practitioners are studying strategies to implement the plan as the school moves to the new law center. The plan develops three important themes, as described below.

Enhanced Educational Experience

The law school is shaping the best educational experience to prepare ethical lawyers for the legal practice environment. For the past fifty years, large classes taught by Socratic method or lecture have characterized most of the learning experience in law schools, and only recently has attention been given to practice-oriented experiential learning, small-group collaboration, and other learning methods shown to be well suited to professional education.

The DU College of Law is developing enhanced and innovative pedagogy to provide the best training possible for the qualities and skills necessary for today’s graduates to succeed in the practice of law. The skills include: (1) critical, analytical thinking; (2) mastering the core substantive concepts of standard legal subjects, with attention to increasingly transnational interactions; (3) oral and written communication in a variety of settings; (4) resolute attention to ethical issues and professional values; (5) multidisciplinary understanding of complex problems; (6) collaboration and cooperation with clients, paralegals, other lawyers, and professionals; and (7) understanding the variety of perspectives and needs of a diverse, multicultural population. To accomplish this goal of providing the best training possible, the law school plans to broaden and enhance its traditional curriculum to teach and encourage constructive, ethical approaches to client-based problem-solving and a preference for teamwork.

To develop more opportunities for experiential learning in preparation for law practice, the DU College of Law is planning to experiment with smaller classes to facilitate dialogue and other interactions, and to incorporate into the curriculum Web-based instruction and testing and team teaching with judges and practitioners. The law school always has been one of the leading schools in the country in clinical training, internships, and cooperative learning experiences with local law firms and industries. The plan is to expand these invaluable real-life experiences for students. Such learning environments also are most conducive to the assimilation of ethical principles and experiences in non-adversarial methods of dispute resolution.

Web-based Teaching Methods

The DU College of Law has recognized technology as a crucial aspect of the rapidly changing and increasingly global legal, economic, and cultural environments. In the context of the new planned curriculum, the new building is designed to take maximum advantage of technology. As a tool for teaching students, the law school is implementing Web-based teaching and testing methods, Web-based faculty-student and student-student communication, and teleconferencing to bring outside experts into the classroom. These extended learning opportunities will be particularly desirable for the law school’s evening division students.

The law school is developing programs emphasizing technology law and telecommunications law by using resources from Colorado’s technology and telecommunications industries. Also, technology will be a tool that DU College of Law graduates will be able to use effectively to conduct legal and other kinds of research, to manage law practices and other endeavors, and to communicate with clients and other professionals.

Interdisciplinary Campus Opportunities

The law school’s relocation on the University Park Campus of the University of Denver creates a number of opportunities for law students to take advantage of the interdisciplinary opportunities of the campus. Joint degree programs in law and other disciplines are expected to be more plentiful and popular for DU students. The law school offers approximately fifteen joint degree programs. Recently, it has added joint degrees in Public Policy and Computer Science. The implementation of the new strategic plan and law school facilities is expected to provide the DU College of Law a distinct identity that will provide an attractive package to prospective students and faculty, to alumni, and to the academic community.

Our Responsibilities

No educational institution can survive without generous graduates and friends. Those of us who practice law in Colorado are benefited by our two law schools in immeasurable ways. The law schools are not only primary sources of new lawyers who can staff our firms and agencies, but their faculty members are active participants in our communities, applying their brilliant minds to our legislation and substantive committee and section work in the bar association. Practitioners teach as adjunct faculty members in both law schools, providing an opportunity for academic analysis of substantive legal topics that is not available in the counseling of clients. In short, our law schools and our Bar have a very supportive relationship—it is a partnership in which we depend on each other to maintain a vibrant legal profession.

The capital campaigns of both law schools deserve our attention and generosity. My law firm and I have pledged to contribute to both campaigns over the next five years. Both law schools have helpful development officers who are anxious to explain the opportunities for contributions. Please call them—and tell them I sent you.

Carolyn Whitehead
University of Colorado
School of Law
(303) 492-5366 (303) 871-6117

Shane Seymour
University of Denver
College of Law 
(303) 871-6117


1. See, then click on "Best Graduate Schools 2003," and click on "law" to find the rankings of the top law schools.

2. Id.

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