Impact – it’s what draws us to the School of Law. The hundreds of people who have worked to build our community over the past 12 years – faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors and mentors – have been motivated by a mission that calls us to be part of a cause that is bigger than ourselves. By exploring the relevance of faith to professional preparation, scholarly inquiry and societal reform, our school has become a laboratory for discovering new avenues through which legal education can impact the world.
Sometimes the impact grabs headlines and awards. More frequently, though, the impact is known only in the relative intimacy of a class discussion, client meeting or administrative hearing. When we view the law through a lens shaped by a concern for justice, we will take care to trace the impact of our actions on real lives in the law’s path. But the impact goes both ways, changing lives both outside and inside our school’s walls, as evidenced by the many School of Law students who have felt the transformative power of service while working on behalf of their clients.
In this issue of St. Thomas Lawyer, we have the opportunity to highlight several avenues of impact that have developed over recent years at the School of Law. Not surprisingly, our clinics are front and center in this issue, as they remain key to delivering a truly transformational legal education to our students while pursuing our mission of service to the marginalized in our community. These are not separate endeavors, of course. The symbiotic relationship between excellence in professional formation and commitment to serving others is a hallmark of our mission.
You will read about the important work being done by four of our clinics, but we could have written similarly inspiring accounts of our seven other clinics; further, the approach that makes our clinics so successful and “impactful” is not exclusive to our clinics. A variety of courses and faculty initiatives are premised on the value of providing students with hands-on experiences that will equip them for meaningful service as lawyers. Professor Lyman Johnson, who writes about corporate law’s role in society in this issue, has helped lead the way with his Business Planning Practicum, a course in which a small group of students works intensely under his supervision on real-world business law tasks. Practicum courses give students the same depth of experience in other fields, including energy law, constitutional litigation and criminal law.
Ultimately, the legacy of any law school is told through its alumni. In this issue, you will read about the work of Tim Flynn and Emily Baxter, attorneys with different career paths who share a vision for social justice. They are two voices from an alumni group of nearly 1,500 who can testify to the fact that a commitment to impact, especially when it is formed in law school, can be a lifelong vocation.
Read more from St. Thomas Lawyer.