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Monday, October 13, 2014

Law School Centers

Many law schools have centers or institutes, most of which seem to be ways to carve out market niches, to attract students, to help graduates market themselves, and to attract scholars in a particular field. We have three of them at SLU (the Center for Health Law Studies and the Center for International and Comparative Law), and I am the director of one: the William C. Wefel Center for Employment Law. This center has been a part of the law school since 1987, and in that time has served as an institutional home for our employment and labor law concentration and provided a way to coordinate interesting programming and bring in outside speakers. The center has also provided a way to connect faculty who teach, write, or provide legal services in related areas.

For many years, the center was supported by the efforts of one or two faculty members, simply added onto their other full teaching and research responsibilities, with occasional help from one of the faculty support staff. Now, as a result of some new educational programming and shuffling of staff, the center has more support, including a full-time program coordinator. Additionally, we are in the midst of developing metrics and processes to evaluate our programs, as many law schools are, in line with the ABA's learning outcomes standard, a standard that has been required by other educational accreditors for some time. As a result, we are exploring what our center could be.

We are surrounded by some useful examples. Our own Center for Health Law Studies has been very successful in that field, bringing together researchers, advocates, students, and those who work in health law settings. The Institute for Law and the Workplace at Chicago-Kent, which Marty Malin wrote about for a recent symposium we held on teaching labor and employment law, is an example in the labor and employment arena. In addition to being home for a certificate program, the ILW has business, union, and law firm members, which contribute to the center and participate in its programming. There are opportunities for students (experiential and scholarships), a peer edited law journal and Illinois public sector newsletter, and a number of workshops, conferences, and events with outside speakers.

Our main focus is to provide the best educational and experiential program for our students. We already have a solid curriculum, including the opportunity to spend a semester in Washington, DC, working full-time for an agency that works in the area. We also want to be able to focus on the needs of our community, and provide a home for research, both of which we have made some forays into. So what else might we consider for our center? Are there any centers or institutes you know of that are doing interesting and important things? Have there been difficult tradeoffs in centers or institutes you know about? I'd be interested in any thoughts in the comments.

Posted by Marcia L. McCormick on October 13, 2014 at 04:07 PM in Employment and Labor Law, Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law, Workplace Law | Permalink


Are you none-too-subtly implying that if a student did not receive the program well, it was not through any fault of the program, but rather because the student was not among that cohort that worked hard to make the most of its opportunities? Kids these days...

Posted by: EFM | Oct 14, 2014 2:05:09 PM

Marcia--thank you for the post. I think your post and program are very constructive. One thing we can do to help our students learn and apprentice is to have substantive centers with an experiential component. Our experience with a Washington program at W&L is that it has helped in these respects and has been well received by students who have worked hard to make the most of their opportunities.

Continued good luck with your program.

Posted by: Charlie Martel | Oct 13, 2014 9:34:36 PM

To provide the best educational and experiential program for your students, you should close these expensive baubles and charge lower tuition so that the significant percentage who never find full-time legal employment will be less financially destroyed by their decision to attend your institution.

Wait, that's not the answer you wanted to hear?

Posted by: EFM | Oct 13, 2014 5:05:32 PM

Oh, fun! Chapter 2 in the "What's Going On At SLU Law" Series!

I can't wait for Chapter 3: Beverage Options at SLU's Law Cafe . . . .

Posted by: Dalvino | Oct 13, 2014 4:18:28 PM

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