Stephen M. Sheppard 2015-10-26 12:55:51
Law schools have been heavily criticized since the 2008 economic downturn. Some criticism was misguided, but some is well deserved. Law schools should always have prepared students for the bar exam and for practice. The St. Mary’s University School of Law has pursued these goals since its founding nearly a century ago, but it can do more. We cannot ignore our duty to strive to provide the best education possible. Thus, we must prepare each of our students not only to practice but also to be an ethical leader of the bar. More broadly, St. Mary’s is confronting the charge that legal education is no longer relevant in America. The notion, despite its absurdity, that lawyers are somehow less relevant caught hold on the Internet. Yet law school is not a luxury for the United States—or for Texas. It is an imperative. Lawyers created the structure of our nation’s democracy. Today’s lawyers are its protectors; tomorrow’s lawyers will be its hope for preservation against ever-present threats. The St. Mary’s commitment to a unique style of education emanates from our very bedrock—as a Marianist institution, as the oldest Catholic university in the Southwest, and as the law school of San Antonio. Our mission commits us to provide a quality education to every student and an experience that encourages peace and social justice, prepares students for change and the future, respects each person, and encourages each in his or her own journey toward faith. So we must prepare law students for service to the poor as well as to the wealthy, with a sense of ethical leadership. And by preparing our students for a changing future, they are ready for an economy and a society that will change with increasing speed. We support students of all kinds who demonstrate these values. St. Mary’s Law alumni and friends have established more than 100 scholarships to assist J.D. students in their educational commitment. In the past year, the school of law instituted new approaches to cultivate these ideals before our students set foot in their first law class. During orientation, each student must publicly take a matriculation pledge vowing to uphold the values of professionalism, honor, collaboration, and scholarship. The new St. Mary’s Law Success Program challenges students to gain competencies essential to both school and law practice. The program analyzes students’ strengths and weaknesses before their first semester, providing tailored instruction and testing in the skills and values required in law school, on the bar examination, and in legal practice. These efforts have generated rapid results. Our emphases on mission and professionalism have reached the greater St. Mary’s Law community and have been noticed by at least two groups—incoming students and alumni, who continue to bring pride to their alma mater. As a result, the value of donations to the school of law nearly doubled in the past year. The number of alumni providing financial contributions increased significantly, as did alumni engagement with the school and their willingness to volunteer for efforts to propel St. Mary’s Law forward. The renewed emphasis on our mission has a clear resonance with incoming students as well. The number of J.D. applications for St. Mary’s Law increased nearly 10 percent from last year, showing that these students have given a robust vote of confidence in St. Mary’s Law as the best fit for their legal education. FOUNDED 1927 ENROLLMENT 784 ANNUAL TUITION $33,900 ANNUAL FEES $740 NUMBER OF GRADUATES IN 2000 242 NUMBER OF GRADUATES IN 2015 216 PERCENTAGE OF 2014 GRADUATES WHO HAD JOBS BY APRIL 2015 80.3 percent PERCENTAGE OF 2014 GRADUATES WITH FULL-TIME, J.D.-REQUIRED/J.D.-ADVANTAGE JOBS THAT WERE SUBSIDIZED BY THE LAW SCHOOL 0 percent AVERAGE DEBT LOAD OF A 2014 GRADUATE $110,000, an increase from 2013 STEPHEN M. SHEPPARD, whose expertise lies in legal philosophy, constitutional law, international law, and legal history, began his tenure as dean of St. Mary’s University School of Law in June 2014. He previously was the associate dean for research and faculty development at the University of Arkansas School of Law.
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