The Morrison Memo

The beginning of a new academic year at NYU Law is always exciting, and brings an opportunity for renewed focus on the Law School’s goals. In the time that I’ve been dean, our world has changed in many ways. The scope and pace of those changes place new demands upon tomorrow’s lawyers—especially if, as we expect of NYU Law graduates, they aspire to be leaders in the legal profession and in society more broadly.

Trevor Morrison Portrait
Dean Trevor Morrison

Preparing our students to be effective leaders—especially in these transitional times—requires a truly excellent faculty, and I believe that ours is simply the best in the world. Our faculty provide thought leadership on a wide range of issues, including criminal justice, national security, press freedom, corporate governance, and technology; they appear before the US Supreme Court and Congress; and they convene meetings of international experts in law, government, policy, and culture to engage the NYU Law community on topics of great importance—this year including thought-provoking discussions on topics as diverse as race, trade, Big Data, Brexit, and the #MeToo movement.

We are always seeking to support and invigorate that excellence, both recognizing the outstanding work of our existing faculty and recruiting new colleagues to deepen and broaden the faculty’s reach. This year, the newly named Aronson Family Professor of Criminal Justice Bryan Stevenson gave a rousing lecture to mark the inauguration of his chair. We also welcomed Steven Dean in January as the new director of our graduate tax program, and Emma Kaufman and Michael Ohlrogge joined our faculty this fall.

Our students benefit from close faculty engagement, notably through our clinical programs, which have been trailblazers since their inception decades ago. Moreover, the wonderful synergy between our clinical and doctrinal faculty provides our students with a well-rounded foundation to engage with today’s most pressing questions and to prepare for future challenges.

In that spirit, Hakeem Jeffries ’97 inspired this year’s graduating class to have resilience and perseverance in the face of setbacks, urging that “a knockdown is different than a knockout.” Congressman Jeffries’s journey, explored in this year’s cover profile, illustrates how, even as circumstances change, an outstanding legal education can provide a strong footing for pursuing ambitious goals.

And the past year has been a time of continued innovation in a wide range of fields. Already focused on law and business and social entrepreneurship, we recently launched the NYU Law Venture Fund, which offers support to student and alumni entrepreneurs. We graduated the first class of our interdisciplinary Master of Science in Cybersecurity Risk and Strategy, and we’ve seen our students and alumni embrace emerging legal roles, including some related to streaming entertainment, art copyright, fluid global relationships, and the shifting limits of workers’ and reproductive rights, among others.

Situated so centrally in the engines of change, the legal profession has a unique role in creating a more inclusive society, including a responsibility to look to our own professional culture. Law schools have a clear opportunity to produce leaders who value and contribute to a variety of backgrounds and perspectives. Our strategic plan—which emphasizes innovation, diversity and inclusion, and student success—serves as a road map for empowering members of the NYU Law community and shaping the legal profession more widely.

Among other steps in pursuit of this goal, the Law School has established a new assistant deanship: we were thrilled to have Lindsay Kendrick join us as our Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion this past year. I was pleased to announce this summer that she will bring her formidable skills to bear as our Dean of Students as well.

As we move forward, the Law School’s history of inclusion is a source of inspiration. The 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, which took place steps from our campus, reminded us of the roles that members of our community have played and continue to play—both within and outside the Law School—in helping to lead the movement for LGBTQ rights.

Our history also reminds us that those who work with and in the law have the ability to sustain and to transform it. So it is gratifying to see how the NYU Law community supports our work: as of June 30, the Law School had raised 79 percent of our $450 million goal for the Lead the Way campaign. Among other things, this generosity allowed NYU Law to offer more financial aid to more students, while also improving our loan repayment assistance program—now called LRAP Plus—to provide greater benefits to alumni working in the public interest.

The deep and abiding engagement of our community in the life of our school is something for which I am sincerely grateful. I am delighted to work with all of you to make an exceptional future for NYU Law.

Posted September 4, 2019