Forecast 2014: A New Campus And Deeper Partnerships

, The Connecticut Law Tribune

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Jennifer Brown
Jennifer Brown

For Quinnipiac University School of Law, 2014 will bring profound change as we move to a new location; forge new cross-disciplinary partnerships with Quinnipiac's schools of medicine, business and education; and deepen our existing partnerships with the profession. All of these changes will enable us more effectively to pursue our mission: educating the whole lawyer to understand and serve the whole client.

In July 2014, we will move the law school to a newly-designed and renovated building on Quinnipiac's North Haven Campus. The new law center will encompass more than 150,000 square feet on three floors. It will provide 40 percent more space for our clinical programs. Our library will feature a two-story atrium and three reading rooms (including one devoted to our alumni) and a beautiful "Library Commons" we expect to serve as an intellectual center of gravity to host trainings and workshops.

In addition to standard large classrooms for lecture and discussion, we'll have seminar-style rooms and flexible classrooms that can be easily rearranged for experiential learning. A new collaborative-style classroom will be wired to let small groups of students draft documents on a shared monitor, while a teacher has the option to display each group's work on a larger screen so the class can compare projects. Even our largest classrooms facilitate collaboration; they allow students to move seamlessly from lecture to small group, simply by spinning their chairs and gathering around smaller, elliptical tables that alternate with more traditional classroom countertops.

Continuing our excellence in advocacy and dispute resolution, we'll make full use of a suite of classrooms designed for trial practice, negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. Our 180-seat, two-tiered courtroom with judges' chambers and jury deliberation room will accommodate our trial advocacy courses and mock trial teams and provide a comfortable space for conferences and symposia, many co-sponsored by groups from the practicing bar. To support our path-breaking course in "Visual Persuasion and the Law," we'll have a film editing studio adjacent to a flexible classroom where students can create the visual aids that support effective advocacy.

We expect our building dedication ceremony in the fall of 2014 to be an inspiring gathering of our alumni and friends.

Evolving Curriculum

A great building needs great programs, and we have several planned for 2014. In March, our Health Law Journal will host a symposium on Public Health and Gun Violence. Plans are also underway for the eighth Speziale Symposium on alternative dispute resolution, co-sponsored by the Connecticut Bar Foundation. It will be held in collaboration with Quinnipiac's nearby schools of medicine, nursing and health sciences, and will focus on ADR in health care.

Our curriculum will continue to evolve in 2014. Len Dwarica, the director of our Center on Health Law and Policy, has already added two new courses to our health law curriculum: "Health Care Information Privacy" and "Federal Regulation of Health Care/Fraud and Abuse."

This winter, we are rolling out two new practicum courses that blend doctrine and theory with real-world practice opportunities. Our "Bankruptcy Lab" is an optional, one-credit add-on to our standard bankruptcy course. Murtha Cullina partner Robert White has collaborated with full-time faculty member Alexander Meiklejohn to design a problem-based course in which students will participate in a variety of counseling and negotiation simulations involving financially troubled debtors.

This pilot course will likely become a model for future "labs" appended to doctrinal courses. These courses will also partner full- and part-time faculty, the better to bridge our students' transition from theory to practice.

Our second practicum course, "Community Needs Assessment," will be a collaboration between law professor Jennifer Herbst and Katherine LaMonaca, the Global Public Health Program coordinator at Quinnipiacs new medical school. This course will teach law students how to apply community needs assessment tools developed by public health professionals to better define unmet legal needs, understand barriers to meeting those needs, assess existing internal and external resources and build effective practices or programs. The tools will be transplantable to a variety of contexts, so that students who plan to practice in government, nonprofits, or solo practices will gain relevant skills.

The course is but one example of the many ways our law school will collaborate with other graduate programs at Quinnipiac. Medical students enrolled in the "Health Policy and Advocacy Capstone" program will take classes in the law school center, and law students will attend a sampling of medical school classes in support of independent research projects. The law school will also work with School of Education and and master's of social work program to develop interdisciplinary and joint degrees. All of these initiatives will give law students an opportunity to learn side-by-side with the professionals who will one day be their clients.

Health And Wellness

Building upon two successful 24-hour retreats at which small groups of second- and third-year law students explored the integration of personal and professional values, we will host a day-long retreat for first-year students at which they can reflect upon the ways law school has influenced their personality, inter-personal relationships and moral problem-solving. Associate Dean of Students Kathy Kuhar will continue to develop programs that foster sustainable habits of health and wellness, so that our graduates are better equipped to withstand the rigors and stresses of practice.

We will continue to focus on the professional development of our students through the work of our new Associate Dean of Professional and Career Development, Shelley Sadin. A former partner from Zeldes, Needle & Cooper, Sadin brings to Quinnipiac nearly 30 years of professional experience and relationships. She has already energized our Career Development office and spent many hours in one-on-one consultations with students and alumni alike.

This past year, along with Quinnipiac colleagues Brad Saxton and Carolyn Kaas, I have had the privilege of serving on the Connecticut Bar Association's Task Force on the Future of Legal Education. Although there is much work ahead of us, our research and discussions thus far have already made clear that the future of legal education lies in a closer partnership between the practicing bar and the legal academy. Just as Quinnipiac welcomes members of the bar to collaborate with us on courses, conferences and curriculum while students are with us, we also depend upon the bar to receive our graduates into a mentoring community and to extend their legal education beyond our walls. Our externship program has enlisted lawyer-supervisors in more than 300 externship sites as legal educators. Mentors in bar associations across the state have also volunteered countless hours to work with our students and recent graduates.

It is on this collaborative note that I'll close my preview of 2014. The press has thoroughly covered the challenges confronting law schools and the legal profession. We can all appreciate the financial constraints facing law firms, law schools and young lawyers. In such a time of apparent scarcity, we benefit from collaboration more than ever.

At Quinnipiac, we welcome the ideas, guidance and instruction that the practicing bar can offer us. And we ask the bar of Connecticut to take up this project of educating tomorrow's lawyers with us – both while they are enrolled in law school and beyond. •

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