Eric Holder with Dean Gormley

The centennial year has been marked with appearances by high-profile guests. On February 23, Eric Holder, the first African American to serve as U.S. Attorney General, gave a keynote address to a capacity crowd in the Duquesne Union Ballroom. Acclaimed attorney and author Scott Turow was featured at the annual Law Alumni Reunion Dinner on April 16. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito served as Distinguished Lecturer for the summer study program in Rome in July, and his colleague Justice Antonin Scalia headlined an historical Centennial program on September 24, 100 years to the day after Pope Pius X had issued his apostolic blessing on the new law school that would welcome its first class the following evening.

The centennial year, though, is about far more than an impressive guest list and special events.

It is a celebration of the contributions of 11 deans, hundreds of faculty members, and most of all, the more than 7,500 alumni who have passed through the Duquesne University School of Law. The achievements and reputations of the school and its alumni are inextricably intertwined. As our alumni have become renowned across our region and beyond, our school has become increasingly recognized for training outstanding professionals in every field of practice. As our school improves, our graduates are better prepared to face emerging challenges and reach new levels of excellence, thus, again, enhancing the school’s reputation. 

University President Dr. Charles Dougherty expanded on this idea in his remarks to the Law School’s graduating class of 2010. Law degrees, he said, each carry two values. The first is the intrinsic value of the credential itself. The product of countless hours of hard work required to earn a degree and pass the Bar exam, this value results from individual effort and remains for the most part constant throughout one’s career. The second, Dougherty explained, is the social value of a law degree—the prestige with which one is viewed professionally by his or her colleagues.

Social value, however, is variable, dependent on a school’s reputation and driven by the esteem in which its graduates are held. Still, primary responsibility for this value rests on the conferring institution. The centennial offers an opportunity for reflection and recommitment to maximizing the social value of every Duquesne Law degree, a task Dean Gormley has eagerly embraced. 

On September 2, 2010, he presented an ambitious vision for the anniversary year and beyond:

Service to Students

Grading policies have been revised to ensure fairness and accuracy without putting Duquesne students at a disadvantage in job searches as compared with graduates of regional competitors.

Online systems have been developed allowing students to easily register for classes both within their respective divisions and between day and evening classes for maximum flexibility.

A vice dean has been appointed for the evening division. Longtime Assistant Dean Ella Kwisnek, L’91, facilitates direct communication between the Dean and evening students. 

Additional support is being provided for Duquesne’s award-winning trial moot court program, which hosted the 2010 National Institute of Trial Advocacy’s “Tournament of Champions” by virtue of their 2008 win in that event. In 2011, Duquesne teams won the Gourley Cup and the prestigious American Association for Justice (AAJ) National Student Trial Advocacy Competition, ranking first in the country. Retired Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Maureen Lally-Green, E’71, L’74, leads an advisory board to raise Duquesne’s appellate moot court and advocacy programs to similar world-class status.

Recruitment and retention of top minority students remains a priority. Former Allegheny County Bar Association President Eric W. Springer serves as a special assistant to Dean Gormley in this area. The Charles Hamilton Houston Scholars program is a centerpiece of this effort. 

Programmatic Initiatives

Ella KwisnekA comprehensive evaluation of the curriculum is underway, examining possible reforms to the first-year curriculum, upper-level requirements, upper-level electives (including clinical programs) and international programs and courses. The exhaustive review includes benchmarking against 40 peer law schools and surveys of faculty, students and alumni.

A concept is being developed for a capstone course in which volunteer practitioners and experts would provide a wide range of sophisticated skills training to final-year students. Topics may include deciding whether to take a case; developing and maintaining clients; billing and the economics of law practice; ethical issues confronted in representing clients; setting up one’s own firm; and issues relating to specific niches of practice.

New faculty members have been appointed, under the leadership of Professor Martha Jordan who chairs the Recruitment Committee, to teach in energy law, labor law, scientific evidence, alternative dispute resolution, intellectual property law and other cutting-edge areas. 

A national search for a permanent clinical program director is in progress. The individual selected will be charged with expanding Duquesne’s already robust clinical programs, which in recent years have won regional and statewide awards for community service. Last year, Duquesne law clinic students argued prisoner civil rights cases in the federal courts. The feasibility of relocating clinics to their own free-standing building is being investigated. 

Programs to increase Bar exam passage rates are being strengthened are being through the excellent work of the Director of Bar Services, Richard Gafney. An $85,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Education is helping the school to pilot an Academic Excellence Program providing personalized assistance to students who require additional help. Robert Perkins, L’05, directs the program.

The gold-standard CLE program directed by Professor Mark Yochum is more successful than ever. In the fall of 2011, it will host a special CLE honoring former Dean John Sciullo.

International programs will be maintained and strengthened, and all students will be encouraged to participate in at least one of Duquesne’s world-class offerings during their law school careers. 

Faculty Support and Development

Increased faculty scholarship informs quality teaching and has a direct bearing on the school’s national and international standing. To that end, more resources are being invested in promoting research and presentation, beginning with a $140,000 allocation for faculty research assistants during the centennial year.

Associate Dean Nancy Perkins has spearheaded a strengthening of the adjunct professor program, with a yearly orientation that more fully integrates adjunct professors into the faculty.

A new faculty chair, named in honor of Carol Los Mansmann, A’64, L’67, has been established to promote and foster outstanding scholarship. Jane Campbell Moriarty, formerly a professor at the University of Akron Law School, received the inaugural appointment in 2011. 

Also in 2011, the School announced the establishment of the Dr. John and Liz Murray Endowed Fund for Scholarly Development. This fund will further promote an environment and culture of scholarship by supporting annual campus presentations by nationally renowned legal scholars, who will also contribute articles for exclusive publication in the Duquesne Law Review. The endowment will also fund annual awards to a member of the Duquesne Law faculty for a book or article judged by peers in other law schools to significantly enhance the legal literature, and to a Duquesne Law student for excellence in writing for the Duquesne Law Review

Leaving a Centennial Legacy

A centennial only happens once. “This is a huge moment for the Law School,” Dean Gormley observed. “We cannot celebrate it half-heartedly. We cannot be afraid to think big.”

2011 law faculty

The Law School and the University are already developing long-term plans for continuous improvement in the quest for excellence. You are a part of this proud history. You can also play a pivotal role in the Law School’s future.

This anniversary presents you with the opportunity to advance the value of your own degree. More importantly, it is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to leave a priceless legacy to future students.

Through Law Alumni Association membership, through volunteering to help with program development or personally work with students, through a financial commitment larger than you have made before, you give future generations the opportunity to become highly-trained, successful attorneys, because they have attended the very best law school they could have chosen—Dean Swearingen’s law school of “the highest character and the broadest range.”

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