The Morrison Memo

The 2018–19 academic year is my sixth as dean. I am excited to reflect on what we have accomplished over the past five years, and on the many ways in which the NYU Law community has grown and evolved. It is also a good time to take stock of the distance still to cover, and of all we can accomplish going forward. 

Over the past several years, we have made real advances on a number of fronts, especially in the three areas identified in the Law School’s strategic plan: staying at the innovative forefront of legal education; building a diverse and fully inclusive Law School community; and ensuring that our students graduate able to pursue the careers of their choosing, regardless of how they financed their legal education. 

We have continued to pursue innovation through our commitment to an interdisciplinary legal education, to building expertise in cutting-edge legal issues, and to global fluency. This year, NYU Law moved all of these goals forward with the launch of the Guarini Institute for Global Legal Studies and its Global Tech Law Program, through which students will partner with the United Nations and other international agencies developing uses of digital technologies in their work. NYU Law alumni are also bridging the worlds of technology and law in a variety of ways, including through working as general counsel at the world’s leading tech companies and arguing major tech-related cases at the Supreme Court. Faculty are exploring new frontiers in information privacy. And this year we welcomed the first students in our new executive master’s degree in cybersecurity risk and strategy, offered jointly with NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering. 

Meanwhile, the faculty who have joined the Law School in the past five years are extending our thought leadership across areas of study. In addition to the others previously profiled in this publication, we are thrilled to welcome Deborah Archer and Melissa Murray, about whom you’ll read more in this issue. 

This year, important anniversaries also provided an opportunity for taking stock. We celebrated 50 years since the founding, at NYU Law, of the Black Allied Law Students Association (BALSA), 40 years since our Law Alumni of Color Association launched, and more than 125 years of women graduates. NYU Law was one of the first law schools to admit women and has been a longtime pacesetter for diversity in legal education. Today, with so much progress still to be made, we have redoubled our efforts to increase the diversity of our people and to ensure the inclusiveness of our community. We recently announced our Birnbaum Women’s Leadership Network, which promotes gender equity at the Law School and in the legal profession. Our Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law and our Center for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging continued this year to convene thought-provoking and challenging conversations about race, gender, class, bias, and the law. And while we work to improve climate and opportunity in the profession and at the Law School, the NYU Law community is bringing new thinking to bear in areas beset by longstanding challenges and racial inequities—including through the faculty, students, and alumni who are helping to drive reform at every level of the American criminal justice system and at every stage in the process. 

Importantly, we also are working to remove barriers to our students’ success, both during their time at the Law School and after they graduate. Key to this effort is ensuring that students are not hindered by debt. We have increased our financial aid budget significantly: In 2017–18, over half of the entering JD class received institutional aid, up from one-third in 2012–13. And we aim to do much more. In October, we launched our Lead the Way campaign, through which we hope to raise $450 million for the Law School, with a focus on expanding scholarships and financial aid and strengthening our Loan Repayment Assistance Program

I am proud of all that we have accomplished together. I am also keenly aware that there is much more to do, and that the challenges of the day call on us to think and act boldly. In the coming years, we will continue to pursue our strategic goals, in partnership and close conversation with our students, faculty, administrators, and alumni. And we will continue to equip our students and to nurture the vital work of our clinics and centers to lead the way in protecting the rule of law and approaching society’s most difficult problems. I look forward to working with all of you to fulfill our bold ambitions for the future of NYU Law.

Published September 4, 2018