The law school maintained its position as a top-tier institution and continued to enhance its faculty, promote faculty scholarship, develop advanced degree programs, recruit and retain a strong student body, and direct resources to enhance student placement opportunities. The school also began developing and implementing strategic initiatives to address the immense challenges facing the legal profession and legal education. These initiatives are designed to strengthen the law school’s competitive position while adapting to a rapidly changing legal profession and economic environment.
Maintaining a Top Law School
In the 2014 edition of “America’s Best Graduate Schools,” U.S. News & World Report ranked Fordham Law 38th among the 194 U.S. law schools included. Of particular note is that the law school’s evening program was ranked third out of 82 such programs across the country. The law school remains very proud of the recognition garnered by its specialty programs in U.S. News & World Report. The dispute resolution program was ranked 12th, the clinical legal education program 16th, and the intellectual property law program 24th. Other rankings similarly position the law school as among the best regarded in the country. In a National Law Journal survey of the “go-to law schools,” the law school was ranked in the top 20 for first-year-associate hiring at the top 250 national law firms. Even as the economy has tightened, Fordham Law has maintained much of its traditional placement success.
The law school continued its successful multiyear effort to strengthen and support its distinguished faculty by making high-impact lateral appointments and supporting research productivity. One new lateral hire was made in 2012-2013, and the addition of renowned scholars raises the school’s academic reputation among its peers. Law school faculty have dramatically increased the number of publications in top-30 academic journals, submission of academic book manuscripts, and faculty presence in the media.
The law school encourages scholarly productivity through competitive research grants and manageable teaching loads. This past year, a new teaching policy was instituted that requires each faculty member to teach in the core curriculum, which reduces the law school’s reliance on visiting faculty to teach required and high-demand courses. The policy increases the standard teaching credit load but allows faculty members to reduce their load by two to three credits by demonstrating a consistent record of scholarly productivity.
Advanced Degree and Graduate Programs
The law school nurtures its existing academic and curricular strengths through efforts to establish additional joint-degree programs and through other cross-departmental collaborations. During 2012-2013, the School of Law and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences discussed the establishment of joint JD/PhD programs that would highlight and make the most of their respective strengths. The law school also expanded its Master of Law programs with a new LL.M. in international dispute resolution beginning in fall 2013, along with a new LL.M. in corporate compliance beginning in 2014.
This past year, the law school’s Long-Range Planning Committee and the law school administration began to develop several strategic initiatives that will help maintain Fordham’s very strong competitive position, increase the value proposition for students who are comparing Fordham to its peer schools, and diversify its educational mission beyond traditional audiences. These strategic initiatives include a reduction in entering class size, strategic use of financial aid, curricular reform to meet the evolving needs of students in a competitive market, and increased use of faculty expertise outside of the JD program.
The Long-Range Planning Committee undertook the first steps toward restructuring the current upper-class curriculum to be responsive to the changed professional environment. Proposed revisions include creating curriculum pathways for students, orienting students towards additional core courses and distributional requirements, and deepening experiential learning across the curriculum. This work is ongoing. The law school will also examine the best ways to build on the capacity of the in-house clinical and field placement programs to offer every student a significant real-world lawyering experience.
The law school has long augmented its traditional focus on its JD program with a focus on increasing LLM concentrations and enrollments. Having successfully expanded LLM programs over the past decade, and having successfully instituted a Doctor of Juridical Science program, the law school will seek to expand its educational mission by offering its academic programming to a wider audience. Some of the programs that are nascent or underway include the planned expansion of continuing legal education programs intended to reach bench and bar, more summer certificate programs that would attract non-JD/LLM audiences wanting to acquire specific legal skills or knowledge (e.g., corporate compliance, commercial contracting/contract drafting, etc.), and Master of Legal Science and executive degrees for both legal and non-legal professionals. Each of these programs can use existing faculty expertise and build on the law school’s existing curricular strength.