Interviewed for the blog’s Law Deans series, O’Rourke discussed challenges facing new law students and growth areas in the legal field.
Founded in 1872, Boston University School of Law was one of the nation’s first law schools at a time when most attorneys learned the trade through apprenticeship, rather than formal legal education. From its inception, Boston University School of Law has offered diversity, accepting women and people of all races and religions at a time when other schools excluded students based on race and gender. In the 1960’s, the law school became one of the first in the nation to actively recruit women as students, and today, the female student population is approximately 50 percent of law school classes.
Since 2004, Maureen A. O’Rourke has served as dean of Boston University School of Law. She is widely regarded as a premier legal educator, having attained recognition such as being named one of the 25 most influential people in legal education by The National Jurist and one of Lawdragon‘s 500 Leading Lawyers in America. Her areas of scholarship and interest include Corporate Law, Business & Transactional Law, Intellectual Property Law.
We reached out to Dean O’Rourke with our questions for law deans regarding the current and future state of legal education as well as the challenges and opportunities facing legal professionals now and in the years to come.
What is the biggest challenge facing new law students?
Every student is unique and so are the challenges each one faces. For some, it is adjusting to the Socratic teaching method; for others, financial pressures; and still others, adapting to life in a new city. With that said, though, some themes recur. Chief among these, I think, is realizing that someone has to be in the bottom half of the class. Many, if not most, of our students, are accustomed to being at or near the top of their high school and college classes. This tends to obscure real differences in preparation and access to resources that help enable law school success. First year grades – and the impact they can have on future employment opportunities – can come as a rude awakening. Students, some for the first time, have to confront adversity. In the best case, they will respond with grit and determination. Indeed, many of our most successful alumni did not graduate at the top of their class!