Father Pilarz: Promoting Marquette’s Responsibility for Milwaukee’s Well-Being

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In a down-to-earth and sometimes self-deprecating way, Marquette University’s new president, the Rev. Scott Pilarz, S.J., offered a vision Monday of a university that simultaneously strengthens the quality of its academic programs and its research while becoming more involved with addressing Milwaukee’s needs.

Speaking during an “On the Issues” session with Mike Gousha, distinguished fellow in law and public policy, in the Law School’s Eckstein Hall, Pilarz described Marquette as one of the nation’s great universities. He said great universities successfully walk a tightrope in which student education and research are complementary, not competitive, interests.

Asked by Gousha what other universities he felt Marquette was competing with, he said, “I think we’re competing with Marquette to be the best Marquette we can be.” He said university leaders shouldn’t  spend a lot of time looking over their shoulders.  “We’re a major national university,” Pilarz said. The focus should simply be, “How do we improve Marquette?”

Pilarz took office as president on Aug. 1. Ceremonies to inaugurate him officially are scheduled for Thursday and Friday. Continue reading “Father Pilarz: Promoting Marquette’s Responsibility for Milwaukee’s Well-Being”

Farewell, Attorney Nathan A. Fishbach

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Nathan FishbachThe Milwaukee legal community lost one of its most distinguished members yesterday with the untimely passing of Nathan A. Fishbach.  Nathan served in the United States Attorney’s Office for thirteen years, rising to the positions of Deputy U.S. Attorney and Interim U.S. Attorney.  He then moved to private practice in 1993, spending the balance of his career as a highly respected civil and white-collar litigator with Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek.  Nathan specialized in complex white-collar cases with overlapping civil, criminal, and regulatory dimensions.  Over the years, I had several conversations with Nathan about his practice, and I always left deeply impressed by his combination of heart-felt empathy for his clients and hard-nosed savvy about litigation tactics.

Nathan will be missed not only by his clients and coworkers, but also by the wider Milwaukee legal community, where he was known as a great leader and builder.  He was, for instance, the founding president of the Eastern District of Wisconsin Bar Association.  Nathan loved to bring people together, and I think he was quite proud of all the things he did that helped to make the Milwaukee legal community more genuinely a “community.”  It is hard to imagine any more deserving winner of the Judge Myron L. Gordon Lifetime Achievement Award, which was bestowed on him by the EDWBA earlier this year.

Although Nathan was a graduate of Villanova Law School, we have long since claimed him as an honorary Marquette Lawyer.   Continue reading “Farewell, Attorney Nathan A. Fishbach”

Palestine’s U.N. Membership: Why Does It Matter?

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Palestinian officials have announced that they will seek a Security Council vote to approve Palestine as a full member of the United Nations next Friday. Israel has strongly opposed the move, and the United States has announced that, if necessary, it will use its veto powers to preclude approval. Why does the membership vote matter?

Because full-member status would establish broad, formal international recognition of Palestinian statehood. For Palestine, statehood would bring a number of benefits, including diplomatic immunity for many of its officials, the ability to join treaties and vote in the U.N. General Assembly, and standing to litigate with other states—including Israel—before the International Court of Justice. Even more significantly, statehood would establish Palestine’s sovereign equality with Israel and rights to self-determination and territorial integrity. Continue reading “Palestine’s U.N. Membership: Why Does It Matter?”

What Has Become of All the Native American Law Students?

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Between 1990 and 2000, slightly more than 2,600 self-identified Native Americans graduated from ABA-accredited law schools. As a consequence, one might have expected the number of Native-American lawyers in the United States would have increased by about 2000 or so by the end of that decade. (The increase would be less than 2,600, since some of the Native Americans practicing in 1990 would have died or left the profession.) Shockingly, according to the United States Census, the actual increase in the number of Indian and Native-Alaskan lawyers in the United States was only 228, from 1502 to 1730.

So what happened to most of the Native-American law school graduates in the 1990’s? Did they fail the bar examination? Did they decide not to practice law? Did they leave the country? Or, were they not really Native Americans after all? Continue reading “What Has Become of All the Native American Law Students?”

Law Firms Are Not Run Like Businesses

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I remember my first “real” interview after I graduated from MULS (this phrase may explain my lack of success in OCI).  One thing the managing attorney said to me continues to stick out in my memory, especially now that I have started my own mediation firm.  “Firms are not run like businesses.”  He stated this in relation to firms renting versus owning real estate space, but in my experience I have recognized this axiom being true in other respects as well.  The one that has stuck out to me is that the hiring process performed by law firms does not conform to standard business practices for HR processes. Continue reading “Law Firms Are Not Run Like Businesses”

The Kindle as Research Tool

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Westlaw released its new Westlaw Next research platform about a year ago. One of the new features of Westlaw Next is that a person can export research and then read it on the Kindle. A person can also take notes about the research on the Kindle and then print it all out.

The Westlaw representative told my Appellate Writing and Advocacy class about this new feature, and at least one of my students has tried it out with great success. She reported back to the class that she found it easy to read the research on the Kindle and appreciated the ability to take notes and highlight the material.

Continue reading “The Kindle as Research Tool”

Reminiscing About Legal Education – How Technology Changed Examinations, Course Materials, and Instruction

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[Editor’s Note: This month, we asked a few veteran faculty members to share their reflections on what has changed the most in legal education since they became law professors. This post is the second in the series.]

In 1983 when I became a law professor, no one had a personal computer.  Dictaphones were a common piece of office equipment.  Secretaries typed our syllabi, handouts, and examinations. Examinations had to be reproduced on the mimeograph machine and collated by hand. Of course, students handwrote exam answers in bluebooks.  The law school didn’t allow students to type their answers, even if they offered to provide their own portable typewriters.

Around 1985 faculty members received personal desktop computers for the first time, thanks to Dean Frank DeGuire’s advocacy and generous donations from the members of the Woolsack Society. Those computers changed our lives and made instruction so much more efficient, especially once we learned how to press “Escape,” “Transfer,” and “Save” to save a document to a 5 ½” floppy disk. (Lost documents were a constant problem for neophyte computer users.)   Continue reading “Reminiscing About Legal Education – How Technology Changed Examinations, Course Materials, and Instruction”

The Making of a Law Professor

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There’s an adage in law that claims that the students who earned As in law school become law professors, the students who earned Bs become partners, and the students who earned Cs become judges.  I can’t verify that the adage is correct, but there is some truth to the first part.  Typically law professors had excellent law school grades.  But that’s not all.  They often members of their school’s law review, and most have held at least one – sometimes two – judicial clerkships.  A good number also spent a couple of years in practice.

As my colleague Gordon Hylton recently noted, such qualifications are considered indicators of the person’s potential to teach law.  The irony here is that few law professors have any background in education or pedagogy and even fewer have any experience teaching. And while law schools often support a new professor as she develops her classroom skills (through formal or informal mentoring or paying for the professor to attend conferences), law schools don’t offer any formal training in teaching law.  Generally, a law professor’s only real teaching qualification is that she once was a law student. Continue reading “The Making of a Law Professor”

Growing Pains

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I recently had the opportunity to re-read the personal statement I submitted with my Marquette Law School application, now almost three years ago, for one of my current classes.  While many things had changed—for example I am now far less idealistic, definitely less “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,” and no longer have a passion for criminal law—the opening and closing statements still ring true and effectively capture the development as a person and future lawyer I have experienced during my law school career at Marquette.  As the new class of future Marquette attorneys has only recently began this journey at Eckstein Hall, I wanted to write a blog post to them explaining what I think the most influential and important aspects of my almost-complete legal education have been.

“When a butterfly struggles to free itself from its cocoon, it causes fluid to be pumped back into its wings. This independent act of vigilance, determination, and extreme effort is what allows the butterfly to take flight. This fact has inspired me as I enter the next phase of my life, and has shaped my perception of law school’s purpose. I enter the ‘cocoon’ of law school well-prepared and with the knowledge that with conviction and a lot of hard work, after three years I too will take flight.”

The above paragraph, while admittedly a bit hokey, was the opening to my personal statement.  It reminds me of a fact that Father O’Meara shares with the entering 1L class each year: it is common knowledge in biology “that growth occurs along places where there is tension, stimulation, or irritation.”  His point is that tension is necessary for both development and learning. These statements illustrate the personal growth I, and I’m assuming most other students, experience during law school.  Continue reading “Growing Pains”

What Has Changed the Most in Legal Education Since You Became a Law Professor?

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[Editor’s Note: This month, we asked a few veteran faculty members to share their reflections on what has changed the most in legal education since they became law professors.  This post is the first in the series.]

I became a law professor in 1970, my first year on the Georgetown law faculty. I believe that one of the most changed aspects of legal education in the past forty-one years is the care and feeding of law students. By that, I refer to the remarkable proliferation of in-house extra-curricular activities. Innumerable law societies shedding light on the various interests of students and weekly opportunities to hear great speakers are but the tip of the iceberg. Not to be overlooked is the availability of frequent free lunches at these noon events. So much for the “feeding.” As to the “care,” the heightened interaction between faculty and students represents a fundamental change in legal education. I do not believe that I ever spoke to one of my professors outside of class. Contrast this with the expectations of today’s students. To conclude, I almost wish I were a law student now instead of then.

The 100th Anniversary of the Law School’s First Real Graduation

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Although the fact went largely unnoticed, the May 2011 Law School Commencement marked the centennial anniversary of the first real law degrees awarded by Marquette University.  In June of 1911, nine students who had entered the initial full-time law program offered by Marquette University in the fall of 1908 received their bachelor of laws diplomas at the annual Marquette Commencement ceremony.

The subject of early Marquette law degrees is complicated by the decision of the University to award Marquette Law degrees to all the former students of the Milwaukee Law School (which Marquette acquired in 1908) who had passed the Wisconsin bar examination.  The decision was apparently made at the last minute, and few documents pertaining to the decision survive.  (It is, for example, hardly mentioned in the Trustee minutes.)  Apparently the decision was also intended to apply to former Milwaukee Law School students who were enrolled at the time of the “merger” and who continued on in the new night program at Marquette.

As a consequence, more than 80 law degrees were awarded in 1908, before the new law school actually began operations, and additional degrees to former Milwaukee Law School students were awarded at the next several commencements.  This decision later came back to haunt the law school, as critics (especially faculty members of the University of Wisconsin Law School) later accused the school of “selling diplomas.”  (Degrees were not automatically awarded to former Milwaukee Law School students who passed the bar examination; they first had to apply to Marquette for a degree and pay a $5 diploma fee.)  In response, the degrees awarded to the Milwaukee Law School students were soon re-labeled “honorary degrees.”

Continue reading “The 100th Anniversary of the Law School’s First Real Graduation”

A Child Remembers 9/11

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I was driving to work on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, talking on my cell phone with my mother.  Suddenly, she interrupted our conversation to say that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center buildings.  My first thought was probably like the thoughts of many others who heard the news second-hand:  it must have been a small plane, a Cessna maybe, an inexperienced pilot or some mechanical error.  Surely an accident.  A few minutes later, my mother exclaimed, “Oh my God, another plane hit the other tower!” Then she hung up.

It wasn’t until I got to work and huddled around a TV with my colleagues that I fully understood what had happened. In a hushed room with several others, I watched in horror, my mouth agape, as the Towers crumbled, as people ran through the streets of Manhattan, thick smoke filling the streets behind them.  It looked like a scene you’d see from somewhere else, somewhere across the world.  But not here.

Those of us with young children at home struggled with what to tell them, what to let them see and hear. What do you say to a child who has hardly seen or experienced much of the world outside his home, his community, his state, that allows him to understand the magnitude of 9/11?  What do you say to let him know the larger world can be unpredictable and scary and dangerous, but so that you don’t scare him into never experiencing that larger world? Continue reading “A Child Remembers 9/11”