Law School dean shares his plans for the next 100 years
the Law School nears its 2002 centennial,
Dean Daniel Fischel, JD'77, has begun a strategic planning process
to assess the current state of the school and its future needs.
Fischel, the Lee and Brena Freeman professor of law and business,
became dean in January 1999, succeeding Douglas Baird, the Harry
A. Bigelow distinguished service professor of law. A former partner
in Lexecon, a Chicago-based law and economics consulting firm,
Fischel joined the U of C faculty in 1984 and specializes in corporate
law and the regulation of financial markets. The Magazine
asked Fischel about his first year as the Law School's leader
and his plans for the coming years.
did you agree to be dean of the Law School?
I love the Law School. I've been at the Law School virtually my
entire adult life, from the time I was a student. It gave me a
great education and created opportunities for me beyond what I
ever could have imagined. I have a real appreciation for its contributions,
not just to the education of our students but to the world of
ideas. When I was given the opportunity, I thought it was a privilege
to be able to do it.
a historic time to be dean--we're approaching our centennial anniversary
in 2002. We will have some events and celebrations, perhaps some
special publications, such as a book with a series of essays on
the history of the Law School. There isn't a single volume that
really captures what the Law School has been.
goals have you set for the school?
My number one priority is to ensure that the Law School's second
100 years are as great, if not greater than, its first 100 years.
There are subpriorities: first and foremost, to continue what
has made the Law School great in the past--the rigor, the challenge,
the interdisciplinary tradition, and the commitment to quality.
the same time, we need to adapt those traditions to the future
in light of the changing economic climate and the richness and
diversity of the Law School's people and programs. This requires
everything from modernizing and expanding the physical plant to
developing areas of study that have become extremely important,
but have historically not been a major part of the Law School
curriculum, and in some cases didn't exist. And at the same time
to preserve the timeless quality of education that has nothing
to do with the fields that are hot at the moment.
very much trying to build closer links to other parts of the University.
We're exploring the creation of new joint-degree programs with
the public policy school, the business school, and the medical
school. We are also trying to upgrade our joint-degree programs
with the economics department and the history department--really,
with all of the departments in the University. In addition, we
want to integrate ourselves more with the city of Chicago, as
well as the area immediately around the Law School. The Law School
has always viewed itself as more of an enclave than I think is
are alumni involved in the planning process?
A lot of different alumni and faculty committees have been formed.
In addition, we're meeting with alumni in different cities, asking
people what they want to preserve about the Law School, what they
want to change, what are our strengths, what are the ways we could
improve the school. To get all those voices has been incredibly
valuable for us in planning what our future is going to be.
are some ways in which the curriculum might change?
I don't pretend to suggest that we're going to turn the place
upside down. Having said that, we are trying to be much more imaginative
with programming than we have been. We have a whole new set of
courses on entrepreneurship, for example. A lot of our students
are going to do things other than practice law. Familiarity with
entrepreneurial skills, I think, would help all of our students,
even those pursuing the most traditional career paths.
trying to really build up the courses in health-care law, Internet
and technology law, and international law and policy.
We're also trying to have a lot more legal history, ethics, religious
studies, and moral philosophy in the curriculum, to make the Law
School not only a place to train students in law but also a liberal-arts
graduate school. What we want to do is to teach more students
how to think, how to be creative, and how to relate the study
of law to other disciplines. When our students get out, they will
have a framework in which to place what they're doing, what their
roles in society are. And when difficult personal or ethical issues
come up, they will have a set of analytical tools to use to address
the problems that occur in every life and every career.
The extent to which the Law School--primarily through its clinical
programs--has become more involved in the community is another
development that we want to continue. This is partly through the
Mandel Legal Aid Clinic, but also through the new Institute for
Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship, added last fall.
has globalization altered the Law School's outlook?
We don't have the scale to establish a Law School overseas. We
don't want to spread ourselves thin. But I think we can accomplish
a lot by expanding our one-year L.L.M. program, whose students
typically come from Europe or the Orient or South America or Mexico.
The market for legal services has become increasingly global,
and one of our core functions is to have an impact on the world
in which we live. One good way to do that is to have a lot of
ambassadors going to different parts of the world and using the
University of Chicago education in different places, doing different
increasing reality is that a lot of the big firms are opening
offices all over the world. Many of our American graduates will
wind up spending part of their career in different places around
the world. Now we're trying to establish some international alumni
structures, to have more of a presence internationally, starting
other issues are affecting law education and the legal profession?
The market for people with legal backgrounds has changed dramatically,
and it's continuing to change dramatically, from what it was just
a few years ago. Now the biggest employers of lawyers are not
law firms but accounting firms. Particularly in Europe, the lines
between accounting firms, consulting firms, law firms, and other
types of financial-service providers are blurring. A lot of people
think the same thing is going to happen in the United States.
much more true now than it was ever before that the typical student
does multiple things in his or her career. They may take all different
types of law-related jobs, or they may practice law, or they may
go back and forth between the practice of law and other types
of careers. We want to be at the cutting edge of legal training,
to prepare our students for whatever options they want to pursue.
is your take on negative attitudes toward lawyers and how they
affect the Law School?
I don't think it's affected the applicant pool, and I don't think
that we have paid too much attention to it. But I do think we
should be concerned. We want to give students a sense of the value
of what they're doing. Again, we're putting the study of law in
a larger social context, not just teaching the different rules
and cases and statutes, but giving a perspective on the role of
lawyers in society and the importance of the rule of law.
you have to do is look at the former Soviet Union to appreciate
that a country without an operating legal system is in trouble,
no matter how many natural resources they have, how highly trained
the population is. Whatever other skills they have, without a
legal system they're going to be in deep trouble.