The law college has been training men and women to practice law for over 125 years. We have a special environment for this educational mission. Very few law schools sit in the middle of a University campus in a small college town. We have state of the art facilities, a great library, and a myriad of opportunities to learn at someone's elbow in both our classes and our clinics.
The law college has a true “open-door” policy. Instead of having to go through layers of secretaries and teaching assistants, ONU students can access their professors directly. And sometimes in the oddest places – I have helped students draft opening arguments while at the local bowling alley on league night; I have had students in my home for a review session; I’ve even judged Karaoke night! There is genuine affection and respect between the faculty and students. We are nearly as proud as parents when students walk the stage to receive their diplomas. One of the best perks of my job is to see the changes that three years will bring to my students. They come in that first year, a little frightened, a little intimidated, but leave poised, confident, and secure in their own skills. It’s wonderful to witness.
We recognize that most of our graduates are going to be out there practicing law immediately after they pass the bar exam, and we want to make sure that they learn not just the law but the practical lawyering skills that will make them effective from their first client on. There are far more practical skills courses and concentrations at ONU than any one student could take, but this assures the students a good selection and the opportunity for directly applicable experience in the field they want to enter.
Employers want lawyers that are ready to practice. The days in which firms were willing to provide on the job training for young lawyers is gone and law schools need to adapt the way they teach and prepare students for this new reality. ONU has been at the cutting edge of this trend for years. While Washington & Lee has received a great deal of national attention for the experiential learning they have begun to provide in their third year, ONU has been doing that for years. From our first year curriculum in which students are exposed to real world problems and work like situations to the requirement that students complete 10 credits of skills courses and the availability of numerous clinical opportunities ONU has been providing an education that prepares lawyers for practice far longer than almost any law school in the country.
I've taught and studied at a number of law schools, and nothing matches the degree of personal connection between student and professor that prevails here at ONU. Perhaps it is the size of the school, and the size of the classes: small enough that all the professors know all their students, and not just their names. More likely it is the attitude with which the faculty approach their students and their role as teachers. Overwhelmingly, the ONU faculty are keenly interested and actively invested in our students' success.
My work experience and research specialty is Rule of Law reform, particularly in post-conflict and developing societies. ONU is deeply committed to promoting the Rule of Law abroad, in ways that other law schools cannot match. Nearly 20% of the students who started at ONU this year are actively studying Democratic Governance and Rule of Law, most of them from developing countries themselves. It provides a great cultural mix in the student community and reflects a shared commitment to look beyond our borders and use our legal training to make the world a better place, particularly in poor and war-torn societies.
The defining characteristic of teaching in a small law school is devotion to students; students who, in many cases, have selected the institution precisely because it can offer small classes and close contact with professors. Getting to know the students in small classes makes me a better teacher. Knowing a student's goals, home town and background allows me to tailor my instruction and counseling to his or her individual needs. There is a rare pleasure in watching a student over the years learn the law, pass the bar, practice law and, in some cases, become a judge.
ONU Law is truly a special place, where students get individual attention from a highly engaged faculty, administration, and staff. I've been the Director of Academic Support here for fourteen years, and it's a joy to watch students grow in confidence and legal skills throughout law school and in their careers. I stay in touch with many of my grads, and am always so happy to hear about their lives and careers over the years.