Law dean plans student life reform

The GW Law School will undergo a curriculum and marketing overhaul this year with a focus on providing increased career support for third-year students.

Starting with three strategic planning committees this fall, Dean Paul Schiff Berman said the process will incorporate alumni, faculty and student input to implement reforms by the beginning of next year.

Together, the three committees will recommend new structures that “keeps building from the first year to the second year to the third year,” Berman said.

The first committee on curricular and teaching innovation, directed mainly by the school’s faculty, will discuss curriculum changes – especially during students’ first year – and ways to provide students more opportunities after graduation.

“I will encourage the committee and faculty to think about putting together different pathways for students in different subject areas that both group courses and, in particular, provide capstone experiences that will make the third year particularly meaningful,” Berman said.

By working with clinics, public policy research projects or special intensive seminars, the dean hopes students in their final year will take advantage of the opportunities across D.C.

Law professor Karen Brown, who is chairing the curriculum committee, said the reform is an opportunity to examine modern legal education.

“Hopefully the outcome will help GW law to focus on future growth in a way that will advance the interests of our students,” she said.

A second committee on student well-being and professional development aims to help bridge the gap between law school and law practice through alumni advisers.

Alumni support will be a pivotal resource to help increase networking and student employment opportunities, Berman said.

A final committee on law school identity and communication will focus on marketing events that separate GW law from other top law schools in the nation through a stronger web presence.

Berman, who took up his post in April, looked to his three years as dean of Arizona State University’s Law School as a guide when initiating reforms.

“GW’s law school has far more programs, opportunities, special events and so forth for students than ASU had,” Berman said. “What GW does need is a way of communicating to students and helping students to take advantage of the pathways that exist here.”

Berman hopes to see the law school, currently ranked among the top 20 in the country, continue to improve in national standings.

The committees are each comprised of 10 law school staff members appointed by Berman, who will meet periodically with the committee chairs and members.

“[The committees] are focused on big picture recommendations and I expect that, by the spring, they will be trying to generate consensus among the faculty for at least some of those recommendations,” Berman said.

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