The Morrison Memo

In May, I proudly watched graduates—most of whom were just beginning their 1L years when I came to NYU Law—walk across the stage to accept their degrees. When I first arrived here, I often spoke about how inspired I was by the Law School’s dedication to justice and to serving the public interest. National and international events have since underscored the need for that commitment—and for a global perspective that encompasses multiple viewpoints. 

These are challenging times. The rate of technological, economic, and political change is accelerating even as the world becomes more complex—and, at times, seemingly more divisive. Instability abounds in countries around the world. Here and abroad, partisan rhetoric and ad hominem attacks often displace rigorous inquiry and genuine debate. And for all its virtues, our own legal system’s deficiencies—including how it treats marginalized communities and disadvantaged groups—are palpable. 

In this climate, I continue to be inspired by our community, not only as it has responded to trauma with messages of warmth and inclusion, but also in the concrete work being done here to make the world more just. Professor Rachel Barkow’s Clemency Resource Center successfully pursues the commutation of lengthy sentences for non-violent offenders. The students of the Suspension Representation Project help younger students stay out of the school-to-prison pipeline. Professor Barry Friedman’s Policing Project addresses fundamental questions about democratic oversight of police and engages police and citizens around the substance and process of law enforcement policymaking. We use our convening power, such as at a recent conference, to gather judges, legal practitioners, and scholars to discuss action steps toward closing the civil justice gap in the United States. Beyond our campus, members of the broader NYU Law community continue to lead by example in myriad pursuits of justice both domestically and internationally. The law touches nearly every important issue of the day, and in these pages you will see how our faculty, alumni, and students are using the law to bring people together for positive change.

Here at the Law School, we pride ourselves not only on leadership and service, but also on our history of innovation. As the world continues to change, it is more vital than ever that we chart our course with intention—not just to keep pace but to set the pace. We do this through projects like our collaboration with NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering around cybersecurity issues, a pioneering database developed by Professor Stephen Choi and his students that comprehensively documents SEC enforcement actions, and the blending of theory and practice epitomized by our corporate law faculty—including its newest member, Professor Edward Rock. We will continue to train students for the jobs of today and tomorrow, to prepare them to succeed both at law school and in their careers, and to ensure that our alumni and the wider community are part of that evolution.

To that end, NYU School of Law spent the past year devising a strategic plan that we will launch this year. Thank you to all of you who participated in the process. Against the backdrop of our dedication to global engagement and public service, the Law School is committing to positive growth in three key areas: innovation in legal education, diversity and inclusion, and student success. As we begin, we are in the enviable position of acting not in response to an institutional crisis, but from a place of strength—building upon the thought leadership of our faculty and the work we have already done. This year, for example, the AnBryce Scholarship Program—which helps students who have faced challenging social and economic circumstances—both awarded its 100th scholarship and saw program graduate Damaris Hernández ’07 become the first Latina partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore. Her profile and the many others you will read here about our groundbreaking JD and graduate alumni illustrate just what kind of mark our community is making on the world. 

But there is always more to do, and we can always do better. It is important to me and to the NYU Law community that our commitment to these goals is more than rhetoric, so you can expect to see concrete action toward realizing them in the coming year and beyond. The future of the profession is ours to shape. I look forward to working with all of you to do just that.

Posted September 2, 2016