Two events, just days apart in Fall 2011, capture for me what makes Tulane Law School so truly extraordinary. The first was a ceremony in the elegant courtroom of the Louisiana Supreme Court on Royal Street in the French Quarter. There, students enrolled in the Law School’s five in-house litigation clinics gathered excitedly to take an oath of professionalism before shouldering the heavy responsibilities of representing real clients in high-stakes controversies.
The second came days later, 1,600 miles to the south, in Panama City, Panama. There, Professors Martin Davies and Robert Force led a day-long seminar for Panamanian lawyers on the latest developments in maritime law. Afterward, we hosted a reception for our 125 Tulane Law alumni in Panama, an enormously impressive group that includes Cabinet ministers, Supreme Court justices, diplomats, and a significant share of the country’s leading lawyers.
In almost any week, one can find a similar juxtaposition of events reflecting Tulane Law School’s distinctive identity as a law school that is at once both global and grounded. For more than a century, Tulane has helped to lead American legal education in its engagement with the rest of the world. Comparative legal study, built on the natural foundation of Louisiana’s distinctive civil-law heritage, has always been part of Tulane’s lifeblood and continues to enrich and distinguish our faculty and students. In the past half-year alone, Tulane co-hosted the Third World Congress of Mixed Jurisdictions in Jerusalem, an international roundtable on cultural preservation law in Siena, Italy, and a pioneering maritime law collaboration with the Universities of Oslo and Southampton, among other ambitious ventures and exchanges. In preparing lawyers for today’s increasingly transnational practice environment, few law schools rival Tulane’s depth and sophistication.
Yet, Tulane is also a law school deeply grounded in its own community – indelibly and passionately connected to its home in New Orleans, to the practice of law, and to the ideal of making a difference in the lives of its neighbors. The first law school in the nation to require pro bono service as an essential part of its educational program, our students pour themselves into a range of innovative service activities throughout the Gulf Coast region, routinely exceeding their modest service obligation many times over.
During the past year, we have significantly broadened opportunities for service and skills training by reinventing our externship program and launching a boldly innovative skills “boot camp.” Through our externship program, Tulane students are now able to work anywhere in the world in governmental or public-interest settings for academic credit. In summer 2011, 184 Tulane law students fanned out to field placements across the globe, from Treme to Tanzania, where they gained practical legal experience while helping meet urgent needs for legal service. Whether protecting aboriginal land rights in the Australian Outback, briefing an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court for the federal public defender in Pittsburgh, or refining vital coastal management regulations for the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, Tulane students made their mark even while developing their skills as lawyers.
In January 2012, Tulane Law School launched a first-of-its-kind “boot camp” to teach lawyering skills. For one fast-paced, intensive week before the start of the spring semester, 150 students were put through the paces of life as a new associate in one of three alternative practice settings: civil litigation, criminal, or transactional practice. The program was taught largely by seasoned trial and business lawyers from across the country, including general counsel for major corporations, the head of global litigation for a leading Wall Street law firm, and managing partners of leading firms in New Orleans. Students finished the program on Friday, arguing a motion in federal or state trial court before sitting judges or closing the corporate transaction they had crafted earlier in the week. The program won rave reviews from students and faculty alike, and we are already at work on plans to expand it next year.
In a setting as uniquely vibrant as New Orleans, and with a world-class academic program as globally connected as Tulane’s, I am convinced there is no more exciting place to study law. I encourage you to visit our campus and see for yourself!
David D. Meyer
Mitchell Franklin Professor of Law
Watch this short video to hear Dean Meyer share some words about Tulane Law School.