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About the Law Review Symposium

October 2013 forum explored the future of legal education

This year’s annual Seton Hall Law Review Symposium, hosted on Friday, October 25, 2013, took on the dynamic debate on the future of legal education. Entitled “Legal Education Looking Forward,” the conference brought to Seton Hall Law School an array of distinguished speakers, including judges, professors, practitioners, administrators, and members of the press, to engage in lively panel discussions throughout the day. The symposium sought to explore current proposals for “revamping, revitalizing, and reestablishing the value of law school.”

Asked why this particular topic was chosen for the symposium, Caroline Hatton ‘14, Symposium Editor of the Seton Hall Law Review, responded, “it is a very hot topic – law schools around the country are having to reconsider their curricula in light of the uncertain legal market, and even President Obama has identified the problems posed by law school debt.” She noted that many other law schools have similarly chosen legal education reform as their symposia topics. “We wanted to have that conversation here because there is no one-size-fits-all solution – Seton Hall will have to fashion its own response, taking into consideration the particularities of the market it feeds.”

Matthew R. Engel ‘14, Editor-in-Chief, added that the topic “seemed especially relevant and timely considering the difficulties law students of all backgrounds are having finding employment.” In response to these difficulties, Engel finds, “almost all administrators and students believe that something about legal education has to change; the debate seems to be about what that something is and how the change is to be done. This symposium was an attempt to have a discussion about those unknowns.”

The panel discussions aimed to highlight, for the students, faculty, and other guests in attendance, a wide range of “competing interests and moving parts that inform curriculum selection,” Hatton detailed, “We sought to address student wants, employer needs, the U.S. News rankings, the ABA requirements, technological developments, and thinking beyond the three years in establishing requirements such as [Above the Law Editor-in-Chief] David Lat’s suggestion of a mandatory gap year between the B.A. and the J.D.” In addition, afternoon panels weighed in on how to maximize the value of a law degree and to transition from law school to legal employment.

In the interest of presenting a variety of viewpoints on the topic, Hatton explained that “balance was key” to choosing speakers who serve diverse roles in the legal field. For example, “in the ‘Bold Approaches to Reform’ Panel,” she said, “Evan Chesler’s and Nora Demleitner’s presentations allowed us to compare the different objectives and results of the massive curriculum changes at NYU and Washington and Lee, respectively. Furthermore, in 'Legal Education in Practice: Local Leaders Weigh In,’ we heard from both Patrick Dunican, Jr., Class of 1991 of Gibbons and Kenneth M. Van Deventer, Class of 1983 of Riker Danzig, two firms that frequently hire Seton Hall graduates, but that do so in different ways: Riker hires through OCI and a Summer Associate Program; Gibbons recruits exclusively from clerkships.”

The symposium team worked hard to ensure that Seton Hall Law alumni both attended the symposium and participated actively as speakers, including Keri Logosso-Misurell '99 and Keynote Speaker, Paulette Brown ’76, the 2014-15 President-elect of the American Bar Association. “Several speakers noted that alumni involvement is crucial to the success of a law school,” Hatton reported. “Alumni have had the opportunity to enter practice and assess their level of preparedness; many of them also now hire Seton Hall students and so know what they look for in recent graduates. Their more complete perspective is invaluable.”

Pictured are Seton Hall Law Review editors, from left: John Wintermute ’14, Managing Editor; Caroline Hatton ’14, Symposium Editor; Matthew R. Engel ’14, Editor-in-Chief; Samir Kurani ’14, Business Editor; and Kevin Georgek '14, Executive Editor.

- Contributed by Sabrina Mirza '15