October 15, 2016
I am pleased to share this report from Albany Law School. As I write, the enthusiasm of our entire community is palpable across campus – with good reason. Having directly confronted the challenges facing legal education across the country, we are seeing concrete results: our admissions profile has improved; we've won a national moot court championship; we've been named best in the nation for government law; we are providing our students a rigorous and hands-on program of legal education; and, perhaps most importantly, our graduates are landing highly sought-after legal jobs. We are a school moving in the right direction.
You, our alumni, are a key to our success. Your engagement with the law school is putting wind in our sails. Many of you have recruited and hired our graduates and assisted our Career and Professional Development Center by coming to campus to mentor and meet with our students. Many of you are supervising students in field placements, judging moot court competitions, and working alongside students in one of our many pro bono projects.
Many of you have provided your personal support by giving to our Annual Fund. We can't thank you enough for your financial contributions. Your gifts provide opportunities for our students and allow us to grow a law school that makes us proud.
The vision we set forth in our strategic plan – to become "a student-centered community of learning that provides a rigorous, innovative program of legal education that responds adeptly to changing needs and opportunities" – is becoming a reality. We have made changes to our curriculum and added new academic programs informed by what our alumni, practitioners, and other legal and business employers have told us are the skills, values, and knowledge essential to success for lawyers and leaders of the future.
We heard, for example, the importance of teaching our students to write clearly and concisely. In response, the faculty instituted a writing-across-the-curriculum requirement, ensuring our students are producing written work in every law school class. This program is unique to Albany Law. We also added a writing specialist and new professor, Joe Buffington, who is focused entirely on academic success and bar preparation. He is training both our students and our faculty to ensure we maintain absolute focus on preparing students to pass the bar exam.
You told us that students hoping to work in business, with innovators, and in the financial markets need additional hands-on training in transactional work and with intellectual property. To address those needs, we welcome two new faculty members. Professor Seve Falati is an experienced practitioner whose expertise is in patent and entrepreneurship law. Joining us in December is Ted De Barbieri, who specializes in business transactions and business start-ups. He will direct our new Community Development Clinic.
The Community Development Clinic (CDC) is especially exciting for Albany Law School. We are able to launch the clinic with the support from a major donation by longtime supporters Edward P. Swyer and The Swyer Family Foundation. As part of our award-winning Law Clinic and Justice Center, CDC will serve as a hub for the services necessary to support emerging micro-businesses in the Capital Region, providing pro bono legal services, creating business plans, and assisting entrepreneurs with identifying micro-loan funding, in coordination with the University at Albany School of Business. CDC is the realization of Mr. Swyer's lifelong dream and we are honored that he chose the law school to carry it out.
We are also excited about the Community Development Clinic because it expands the opportunities for students to learn law by practicing law, contributing to the growth of the Albany community along the way. Many of you are already familiar with the work of our Law Clinic and Justice Center, our field placement program, our semester in practice program, and our summer in government program. What you may not know is that we now require all of our students to participate in one or more of these experiential learning opportunities. Again, this change in our educational program responds to the demands of the market for "profession-ready" graduates, while simultaneously advancing our mission of connecting the classroom to the profession to better educate and empower tomorrow's leaders.
Also part of our mission is bringing education in law to a broader range of students. Toward that end, we have created new graduate programs. The Master of Science in Legal Studies (MSLS) will provide legal training to those looking to advance their careers but who are not interested in the J.D. There are four concentrations: Government Affairs & Advocacy; Health Law & Healthcare Compliance; Social Entrepreneurship; and Cybersecurity & Data Privacy.
The MSLS in Cybersecurity & Data Privacy is especially exciting because it is our first foray into online teaching. Launching in January, the program will provide those who develop, implement, and manage information security program an in-depth study of the legal implications of cybersecurity and data privacy. Associate Dean Antony Haynes is leading this effort, building a list of courses taught by experts across the U.S., in partnership with the Global Cyber Alliance (GCA), an international, cross-sector effort dedicated to confronting cyber risk around the world. The program will be available through cross-registration with the new College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity at the University at Albany.
Responding to requests by students for alternatives to the traditional three- or four-year JD program, we are launching an accelerated program for highly motivated students to earn a law degree in two calendar years. The two-year J.D. will serve applicants, especially more mature students, who are driven to obtain a legal education and apply it to the job market as soon as possible. These students tend to be well-qualified and ready for a rigorous learning environment. By reducing their time in law school, and tuition by one year, they can launch their new careers sooner.
Our affiliation with the University at Albany continues to develop as we explore commonalities between our institutions. We share calendars and events and are building relationships as our faculties explore shared opportunities. We have enrolled more UAlbany graduates in this year's 1L class than in past years, and we have an ongoing admissions presence on its campus.
We have also welcomed a unit of UAlbany onto the Albany Law campus. The Center for International Development (CID) has taken residence in the 2000 Building. Part of UAlbany's Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy, CID's mission is to mobilize the expertise of UAlbany for the benefit of people in developing countries by establishing government infrastructures. CID's international work will inform the work of our faculty engaged in international law, and will complement the work of our Government Law Center. We hope to capitalize on each other's strengths and potentially provide additional opportunities for both UAlbany and Albany Law faculty and students.
Speaking of faculty, we recognized three outstanding faculty with distinguished professorships and chairs: Professor Vincent M. Bonventre is the newly appointed Justice Robert H. Jackson Distinguished Professor of Law; Professor Patrick M. Connors is the newly-appointed Albert and Angela Farone Distinguished Professor in New York Civil Practice; and Professor Mary A. Lynch is the newly appointed Kate Stoneman Chair in Law and Democracy. We also said farewell to Professor Dale Moore, who retired after 33 years of service to the school.
The new programs and the energy and focus of our faculty are generating results. One measure of law school success is admissions numbers. I am happy to report that our incoming 1L class is 16% larger than the previous year. It is also academically stronger with higher LSATs and GPAs than we have seen in years. The students are a diverse group on all counts; they are racially diverse, come from across the country, and many are second-career professionals. We are proud of this class, and all our students. They chose Albany Law for many reasons – especially the strength of our community. Many of our students heard about Albany Law from one of you, or met you at an admitted students' day.
Your enthusiasm for the school makes a real difference in the important work of attracting the best and brightest to Albany Law. It also makes a difference with job placement. I am happy to report that our placement numbers continue to rise as the market opens up. About 84% of the Class of 2015 obtained J.D.-required or J.D.-advantaged jobs following graduation. Early indicators suggest the Class of 2016 will do even better.
Thank you for your role in this successful year. Our alumni are truly part of all that we have achieved. You join a great heritage and lineage of success – only a handful of schools can boast about graduating two U.S. Supreme Court Justices, a U.S. President, the current governor of New York, hundreds of sitting judges, and a U.S. Cabinet member. You, too, continue to do great things with your legal training. I greatly enjoy meeting you and learning about your careers, and building our Albany Law network. Please be in touch when you have good news to report. Your law school is proud of you, and we want to celebrate your success.
And please, support us through philanthropy. Approximately 85% of our students receive financial assistance, and they still graduate with too much debt. We need your support to offer more scholarship dollars, allowing us to provide excellence in legal education to the next generation of outstanding Albany Law graduates.
When you receive a letter or phone call in the coming weeks and months asking for your support, I hope you will give generously.
Thank you for all that you do for Albany Law, and stay tuned – the best is yet to come!
All my best,
Alicia Ouellette '94