Prospective students who talk with me about the possibility of joining us here at the Law School often ask what’s special or distinctive about us. I talk about the rigorous analytical education they’ll get, the opportunities they’ll have for hands-on use of those abilities in our rich array of clinics and externships, and the focus on “law in action.” But I also tell them that our law school is special because it is, on our large campus, its own warm and connected community.
There are several aspects to that connected community. One is the opportunity we provide our Law School students, faculty, and staff to engage with great speakers and challenging issues. We had an amazing example of that this fall when Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor visited the Law School. The Justice tirelessly spent a full day engaging with our entire community, including a breakfast for faculty and staff, a lunch for students, and an open presentation for those members of our Law School family fortunate enough to secure tickets. Read more about Justice Sotomayor’s visit on page 20.
Another is our openness to inviting others to join our Law School community. This issue features our new month-long summer program for undergraduates from economically disadvantaged or historically underrepresented groups who are thinking about law school. We hosted our first cohort of James E. Jones Jr. Scholars, as we call them, in June. We knew the program would help undergraduates determine if law school was right for them; we didn’t know that exposure to these students, with their passion for justice, would reinvigorate our own commitment to the work we do. The program culminated with a keynote address from Justice Geraldine Hines, our graduate and the first African American woman to serve on the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. Justice Hines’s experiences reflect her commitment to community; her visit is featured on page 14 and she is profiled on page 17.
Our community is also distinguished by its sustained commitment to support the broader community outside our Law School walls. This issue features our students’ work with K-12 students and the expansion of our pro bono project supporting veterans. Those are just a sampling of the way our students and the broader Law School community engage with and serve in the world outside, but there are many more. Every year, our students host a Thanksgiving meal at a local children’s learning center and hold a gift drive for those same kids. Our fall Go Big Read book, Matthew Desmond’s Evicted, got us all talking about housing insecurity and homelessness, but it also inspired a very hands-on commitment: a crew of Law School volunteers are now part of the regular rotation preparing a hot breakfast for overnight guests at a Madison homeless shelter. It’s a 5 a.m. shift cooking for a hundred guests, but we’ve got more volunteers than we can accommodate. When members of the University of Wisconsin Law School community serve, we do it with our sleeves rolled up!
We hope our current students will take that hands-on commitment into their practices and lives. We know that our alumni already do. In the work you all do to support your cities and towns and the causes and organizations you care about, we hope that you bring into your world a little of the community you experienced at UW Law. We also appreciate all the ways you continue to engage with and help our Law School community: by helping current students and recent graduates find their way in the job market, inviting current students to shadow you over school breaks, and helping us with financial support. You’re always a part of our circle; I hope that you still feel the warmth of the UW Law community embracing you.
My best wishes,
Dean Margaret Raymond