“Ten years ago I was confronted with a question that changed my life.”
Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig began his remarks to the members of the School of Law Leadership Honors Program on Sept. 21 without understatement.
Discussion at the first event in this year’s Honors Roundtable Series flowed forward from this fundamental question: how are you able to make change in the face of a corrupt system–not as an academic in an isolated field, but as a citizen?
It was a question that spurred an investigation that Lessig brands “a ten year project to understand our system, and ultimately to try to wrestle back our representative democracy.”
In its first year at the University of Dayton, the Leadership Honors Program is intended to provide resources and further leadership training for its students in order to embolden the next generation of successful, civic-minded law professionals.
Its first speaker, Professor Lessig grappled with the need for reform of money’s role in politics; he posited that “competition, usually good, can produce a bad outcome” when Congressional representatives are trapped “on the treadmill”–fixated on funding the next campaign in order to keep the job, rather than performing the job itself.
Attendee and LHP cohort member Brooke Poling, one of a number of students to contribute during the discussion, reflected on Lessig’s evidence, anecdotes, and musings.
“This has given me so much to think about. I feel challenged about what I thought and what I should do in our political system; the discussion was very beneficial.”
With the Leadership Honors Program’s goals in mind, “challenged” may be the perfect word:
Lessig’s work invokes larger inquiries in line with the School’s emphasis on cultivating civically responsible lawyers–as well as citizen leaders.
Despite the looming forecast of heavy rain showers on Sept. 17, the spirit of Walk a Mile in Her Shoes was not dampened. Hosted collaboratively at the University’s River Campus by the Artemis Domestic Violence Center and YWCA Dayton, the event was dedicated to raising awareness on the issue of domestic abuse.
“Domestic violence is a key issue that both YWCA and Artemis Center are trying to make an impact on,” said Audrey Starr, special events and communications manager at YWCA Dayton. One way that Artemis and YWCA offer support for domestic violence victims is through their shared 24/7 crisis hotline, designed to provide continual help for those suffering.
“Artemis suggested to raise funds for the hotline,” Starr said. “We really wanted to work with students, so we teamed up with the UD School of Law Human Rights Awareness and Advocacy Group, which had hosted the same event the year before, and the UD Women’s Center.”
Walk a Mile in Her Shoes included a 5k run and walk, and red high heels lined the course to symbolize the female victims of domestic abuse. Several UD students were also on hand to participate in the race.
Beth Herdmann, a member of the UD School of Law’s Human Rights Awareness and Advocacy Group, has big expectations for the fundraiser, saying, “We hope this event will continue to grow both in the UD community and in the city of Dayton, occurring annually and continuing to raise awareness.”
“I am welcoming you today to the legal profession.”
This greeting provided Friday, Aug. 26 by Associate Dean Lori Shaw marked the commencement of the School of Law’s annual Oath of Professionalism Ceremony.
The oath itself is a tradition practiced by all incoming University of Dayton law students, with similar ceremonies occurring at law schools across the nation. Uniquely, this year’s oath was written by UD law students themselves; designated Learning Communities within the school submitted drafts and faculty and staff selected the winning version.
Addressed to a gathering of incoming first-year students, relatives, and friends in Keller Hall’s Mathias H. Heck Courtroom, the remarks of Dean Shaw and other esteemed speakers offered a glimpse into the students’ upcoming journeys as they enter the legal field.
Keynote speaker and law school graduate Patrick J. Piccininni spoke passionately to attendees regarding the nature of professionalism: “How you leave your profession and your community at the end of your career must be better than you found it.”
He championed two key virtues, participation and responsibility, through which both legal integrity and true citizenship are realized.
“Law is not practiced in a vacuum,” he warned.
“When you finish your studies and become an attorney you will be entrusted with… a mighty sword and shield. Wield it as King Arthur wielded Excalibur; for truth, justice, and to help your fellow man.”
At the culmination of the ceremony, incoming students were asked to stand and recite the oath, right hands raised. It began with an affirmation that echoed those virtues of commitment and responsibility:
“I am a future lawyer.”
Who could forget the high school dance in the Grease? John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John were in the dance competition as Edd Byrnes played a cheap imitation of Dick Clark in winnowing out the losers. Soon the spotlight focused on Johnny Casino & the Gamblers, played by Sha Na Na and the music of “Tears on my pillow, pain in my heart.”
That song has become a dirge for me, for it was Dennis Greene who sang that solo in the movie. Dennis died in early September at the age of 66 from cancer of the esophagus. His death was shockingly sudden. There were not enough pillows to absorb the tears. His death was a loss to his family, to the University of Dayton, and to the Dayton community where he had become a quiet and effective presence who was making a difference, especially in the African-American community.
I had the good fortune to share lots of good times with Dennis during the past 10 years, including having dinner with him a number of times. We also met once at the Harvard Club in New York City as well as seeing shows together at the Victoria (Oliver produced by The Muse Machine) and The Loft (His Eye is on the Sparrow directed by Schele Williams, daughter of Diamond Williams, leader of the Ohio Players). Those times gave me an appreciation for the quality of his life, the goodness in his heart, and the good that he was doing in the community. When “His Eye is on the Sparrow” was sung so beautifully during the Memorial Mass for Dennis, those times came rushing back and I felt like Dennis was watching over me, just like His Eye on the Sparrow.
He grew up in Harlem where his father worked for the post office and his mother was a teacher. His success in school earned him a scholarship to Hotchkiss School in Connecticut. He then became famous as one of the founding members of Sha Na Na, a group of undergrads from Columbia University.
Early on, Sha Na Na played in lots of venues in New York City, often opening or playing with such legends as Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin. They invited Sha Na Na to play at Woodstock. I remember Dennis talking about the rain and the mud at Woodstock, but also talking about the aura of peace and love that permeated Woodstock, adding that not all of it was due to the wafting weed.
After more than fifteen years of success with Sha Na Na, Dennis went back to school and earned a Master of Arts from Harvard, and a juris doctorate from Yale to add to his bachelor’s from Columbia. After a stint as a vice-president for Columbia Pictures, Dennis began his teaching career. At Oregon, he was a colleague of Lisa Kloppenberg, and when Lisa became the Dean of the University of Dayton School of Law, she persuaded Dennis to come to Dayton. Soon Dennis became an unassuming celebrity as You Tube brought his past back to the present, to the delight of students who howled at seeing their law professor dance and sing in gold lamé suits.
I always admired the quiet side of Dennis, as he sat among friends and shared his life and his views on life. It was no surprise that he loved to discuss movies, not just the stars and the story line, but the real message behind the movie and the real acting skills of its stars. I admired how well he was connected throughout the Dayton community and his ability to relate to everyone.
There were a couple of times when Susan Elliott and I had dinner with Dennis and his brother, Father Michael Greene, on Christmas Eve at C’est Tout. During dinner the two brothers shared their Christmas memories, both family and spiritual. Susan and I felt blessed to share those magic moments with them.
Dennis Greene was quiet and unassuming to the end. When I heard that his fall law school classes were going to be reassigned so that he could take a medical leave of absence, I reached out to him, and he responded immediately, telling me that he was having a “medical tsunami” and was waiting for the doctors to explain the treatment plan, but that he looked “forward to getting together in the not-too-distant future.” A week later, Dennis Greene passed away. Tears on my pillow.
There was a packed courtroom in Keller Hall Tuesday – but instead of opening arguments, there was an opening prayer in remembrance of professor Dennis Greene.
A “renaissance man,” Greene passed away Saturday, Sept. 5 at the age of 66. He excelled in two very different worlds – one of entertainment as the co-founder of the rock group Sha Na Na and one of law as a graduate of Yale Law School and former vice president of production and features at Columbia Pictures. He began full time at University of Dayton School of Law in 2004, where he taught both law and communication classes.
The prayer service held in Greene’s honor erupted in conversation, with students, faculty and staff from across the campus sharing their memories of the beloved professor. A slideshow provided a glimpse of both gold jumpsuits and cardigans, displaying the contrast of Greene’s two worlds.
“I always ask myself, ‘How would Uncle Dennis deal with this situation?’” Greene’s nephew, Edward Robinson, told the attendees. “The common denominator throughout his life and career was giving back, the pursuit of helping others.”
He continued his exploration by completing his legal externship last summer in Australia.
“I know that the world is bigger than the United States. We may consider ourselves to be the most powerful nation, but that does not mean we have the most effective answers,” Stewart said. “I believe that to have the best legal system you must understand how other countries’ legal systems are structured to see if there is a better way to structure our own to make it better.”
In Australia, Stewart worked for a firm that handled workers’ compensation and common tort law. Sometimes he had the opportunity to conduct research for a family or work on a criminal case. In his first week, he noticed a key difference from the American legal system.
“The Australian legal system uses solicitors and barristers while the American legal system only uses lawyers, which is essentially both a solicitor and barrister in Australia,” Stewart said. “Solicitors work directly with clients as they prepare contracts, wills, probate documents and attend to other paperwork as well as investigating the facts of the matter, writing letters to other parties and preparing paperwork for the courts if the client is involved in a dispute.”
“If a solicitor cannot handle the case, the solicitor will recommend a qualified and experienced barrister appropriate to the budget of the client and the nature of their case to be their advocate to help resolve the case.”
Although he’s studying law, the Jackson, Tenn., native doesn’t see himself becoming a lawyer. A devoted member of his church and member of the Air Force Reserves, he knew he wanted a career that kept him close to his faith and asked himself how he could affect change through his beliefs.
After getting a bachelor’s in English and communication and a master’s in theology, he decided law school was the next step.
“I wanted to be able to see the individuals who didn’t have a voice and be their voice,” said Stewart. “My dream job would be three-fold; I would love to be a mayor back home, work as an Air Force Reserve chaplain and work for a nonprofit organization.”
Pay attention. That’s what jurors promise to do. But what happens to justice when social media provides more compelling evidence?
@JurorNo1: Here we go again. #ihatejuryduty
@JurorNo2: He’s obviously guilty. Wish we could go home.
@JurorNo1: Guilty? With that @justinbieber hair? His barber even started a “Free Willy” Facebook page.
@JurorNo2: LOL #weallhatejuryduty
Imagine this Twitter exchange happening in the jury box during a trial.
Now imagine you’re the defendant and your future depends on the jurors paying attention to the evidence you believe will exonerate you.
But while you’re sitting at the defense table, palms slick with sweat, knees trembling, nervously tapping your foot like Ringo Starr on the drums because you know if you’re found guilty you’re going to prison, maybe for a very long time, the jurors are busy Tweeting and texting and updating their Facebook pages with details about you, your alleged crime, your bad haircut and the awful way your plaid pants clash with your striped shirt.
It could happen.
It has happened.
“Oh yes, it’s happened,” says University of Dayton law professor Thaddeus Hoffmeister. “It’s already been done in the box, in the jury box itself, unfortunately.”
The telltale sign?
“The juror’s head was down all the time,” Hoffmeister says.
If you’re surprised, you shouldn’t be.
Social media is as ubiquitous as naked photos of Anthony Weiner. No matter where you go or where you are — the movies, church, even the urinal — you can find someone texting, Tweeting, Instagraming, Tumblring, Digging, emailing, Facebooking, Amazoning, eBaying or just searching for information on Wikipedia about Miley Cyrus twerking. It has changed the way we work, the way we interact, the way we live.
The difference of course is that, mostly, someone’s life isn’t on the line.
When jurors are sworn in for duty they tacitly agree to listen to all the evidence presented to them when they swear to judge as fairly and impartially as possible. The concern is that all the distractions and, worse, the almost instantaneous ability to gather “facts” not in evidence, compromise a defendant’s ability to get a just and unbiased trial.
“I worry about that, yes definitely,” says Montgomery County [Ohio] Common Pleas Judge Timothy O’Connell ’77.
O’Connell, a 1980 graduate of the UD School of Law, leans back in a leather chair in his cluttered fourth-floor office in the Montgomery County Courthouse, his fingers tented as if in prayer, his brow furrowed as he contemplates the question of jurors going outside the boundaries of the courtroom to gather information they shouldn’t have.
“There have been cases reported where convictions have been reversed, new trials ordered and even dismissals of charges in some instances because of the use of information that wasn’t presented in the courtroom,” he says.
Attorney Jon Paul Rion ’96 remembers a civil case in Dayton that was settled in favor of his client just before closing arguments.
“We spoke to the jury afterwards, before they were discharged, and they’d read all about the case, knew what the judgments were, knew all the information,” Rion says. “It was unbelievable the amount of information they had that was not presented in the courtroom. And they openly admitted about getting the information about the case while the case was ongoing. We were shocked, one, not only by the openness but, two, the amount of information they felt they needed to do their job correctly.
“Clearly when you have information like that coming in through the back door, it’s of great concern. It’s impossible to monitor.”
Therein lies the rub. We live in an instantaneous world. We can connect to each other as well as to huge stores of information in the blink of an eye. Or more precisely, the flick of a finger. We now have the ability to check a defendant’s background, his or her prior record, and read personal comments about the person that may or may not be true. We can go to Google Earth to view crime scenes, check out lawyers, judges, witnesses and fellow jurors, “Friend” the victim, the defendant, their families and friends, and leak details to the public that are supposed to remain confidential.
“I particularly worry about jurors who can fairly easily go online … and go into the clerk’s records and find out about prior charges and prior convictions of the defendant,” O’Connell says.
Hoffmeister, who writes a blog about juries (juries.typepad.com), points to a sexual assault case in Louisville, Ky., where the victim, unhappy with the sentence of the two juveniles convicted of attacking her, went online and named them, even though the court kept their identities sealed.
“She said something to the extent of, if this is all that reporting a rape got me, then I’m mad I reported it,” Hoffmeister says of her reasoning. “There’s a lot of things going on with that particular case, such as can we keep legal proceedings quiet in the age of social media? It’s very hard. There are so many different ways you can get information out to people, courts are going to struggle with that.”
Twitter, Facebook and the like have turned ordinary citizens into what Hoffmeister calls “social media vigilantes.”
In 2009, for instance, an American couple visiting the Bahamas decided they wanted an exotic meal … of endangered iguanas. Like all good Facebookers, they felt the need to document their feast and posted pictures of themselves “cleaning the iguanas, and barbecuing the iguanas, and grilling the iguanas,” Hoffmeister says.
“Somebody saw the pictures on their Facebook page and called the authorities down in the Bahamas and these people were arrested. All because of people watching and seeing what was on somebody’s Facebook page. There’s so many different ways that social media is now impacting criminal law.”
Two years ago, Hoffmeister, who joined the UD law faculty in 2007, didn’t consider Twitter as something viable.
“I thought, 140 characters, how does this work?” he says.
Now he teaches a class on social media and the law and, in early 2014, will have a book, Social Media in the Courtroom: A New Era for Criminal Justice, published by Praeger.
Sitting in his cramped office in the lowest level of Joseph E. Keller Hall, Hoffmeister, dressed in khaki pants, a blue checked shirt and sandals, is practically giddy while talking about the impact of social media on the judicial system. Words spew from his mouth faster than the Twitterverse reaction to Ben Affleck as the Batman.
After it occured to him that almost all his jury blog posts were about the effects of social media on jurors, Hoffmeister began to look at the entire judicial system.
“How are the criminals using (social media)?” he asks. “How are the attorneys using it? How is law enforcement using it? How do judges use it? How do we get it admitted into evidence? How do we get your Facebook page where you either contradicted the statement you made earlier or you foolishly posted a picture with you standing there with the stolen property admitted against you?”
And, as the man who consulted on the jury instructions for U.S. v. Barry Bonds, he understands the fears of a defendant about getting a fair trial.
“They have a valid argument,” Hoffmeister says.
Highly publicized cases such as that of Jodi Arias, who was convicted of brutally murdering her ex-boyfriend, make it virtually impossible to sit an unbiased jury, he says.
In a story about the penalty phase of Arias’ trial, CNN quoted jury consultant Richard Gabriel as saying, “(Social media is) incredibly powerful because it is a juror interacting in their natural environment. It’s them unedited, uncensored and not trying to couch things in way that’s politically correct. So you have a candid view of the juror, and it allows you to see how they view the world and how they express themselves.”
To his point, an alternate juror allegedly ignored instructions by the judge and posted on Facebook something about Arias’ temper.
“If (Arias) does have Latina blood, it may explain a temper lol,” the juror wrote.
Jurors aren’t the only ones with smartphones, of course. Judges and lawyers can also abuse technology — and get in trouble.
Says UD law professor Denise Platfoot Lacey, “Oftentimes it’s personal social media abuses that have gotten them disciplined. For instance, a lawyer asks for a continuance because he’s got too heavy a workload and then posts on social media that they’re really hungover because they were out too late the night before.”
Lacey served for two years as the secretary to the Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism for the Supreme Court of Ohio, investigating complaints against lawyers and judges. Social media now adds more challenges.
“Lawyers and judges have taken an oath to be a part of the system that will be fair and impartial, ” she says. “If there are abuses, people see this and they wonder about the officers of the court to whom we’ve entrusted the system.”
So what can be done about it? Can anything be done about it? As Hoffmeister says, the court system “changes at a glacial pace.”
One thing judges can do is change their instructions to juries — something O’Connell has done — cautioning them to not speak or use social media to communicate with anyone about the case. The Ohio State Bar Association amended its recommendations on jury instructions in 2010 to include just such a social media clause.
But, says Hoffmeister, expecting a juror to keep quiet about a case has never been practical — or realistic.
“I never believed that people went home after jury duty and didn’t talk to their wife or their husband about it,” he says. “You’re kidding yourself if you believe that. I think people always went home to their spouses, they talked about the case, and their spouses responded by saying, ‘Oh, I think he’s guilty’ or ‘not guilty.’ I just think it’s at a higher level now where you can reach out and talk to people outside your immediate vicinity.”
Judges could also confiscate any device — phone, tablet — that could connect a juror to the Internet, or consider something as drastic as sequestration.
Neither is entirely effective.
Sequestration, Hoffmeister and O’Connell agree, is expensive and an invitation for jurors to lie their way out of service.
“It turns people off,” Hoffmeister says.
Meanwhile, seizing phones and tablets could send some jurors into jittery fits.
“I’ve read some stories,” Hoffmeister says, “that say the Internet can be addictive. When you get an email it releases endorphins in your mind. It’s a pleasant sensation to you.”
For some, it’s a sensation they can’t live without. Last fall, the Behavioral Health Medical Center in Bradford, Pa., rolled out a 10-day inpatient program to help users kick their Internet habit. It may not be the same as asking a junkie to quit popping pills, but it’s an acknowledgement that some people just can’t give up their smartphones and tablets without help.
There are more extreme measures for judges, of course, such as sending jurors who violate the social media instructions to the slammer.
“That would be the last solution,” Hoffmeister says. “We in this country don’t punish like they do in England and other common law countries. In England, I’ve seen them give someone six months, which I thought was outrageous, for violating the rules. In England they hammer the jurors. In this country, we don’t hammer jurors.”
O’Connell agrees that sentencing jurors to jail time would be onerous.
“We always try to do the least invasive thing,” he says. “We’re always walking on eggshells now about making things convenient and easy and pleasant, if you will, for jurors.”
Pleasant for jurors, maybe, but not so much for defendants who must not only face the judgment of their peers but also hundreds, sometimes thousands, of anonymous “friends.”
“I know one case,” Hoffmeister says, “where a woman juror in a sexual assault trial took a Facebook poll and said, ‘OK, what do you Facebookers think I should do?’”
Scary, yes, but not the end of the world — or our justice system — says attorney Rion.
“For the most part, I believe jurors, citizens, try to be fair,” he says. “Examples to the contrary are always there, but I think you can rely on the jurors of this county, or any county, to at least try to be fair. Whether that translates into perfection, it never does, but it seems like people are well-intended in our judicial system and there is a great pride people have of it.
“Due to the extent that we have to be careful and watchful of (social media), I agree completely. But it’s not as if we’re in a situation where we need to scrap the jury system and start over. It’s still the best mechanism for justice that we could possibly have.”
Curbing the social media vigilantes
Can there ever be uniform instructions to juries about the dos and don’ts of social media? University of Dayton law professor Thaddeus Hoffmeister doesn’t think so.
“From state to state and county to county, things are different,” he says. “There are just so many jurisdictions, I don’t see how we could come up with a set of standards that everyone could use. There are some approaches you can use, but there is no surefire method.”
Among those approaches:
Better jury instructions. “Ask them if they can do without their phones for days or weeks. If they can’t, excuse them. And tell them why it’s important they don’t use social media. Juries need to know why they shouldn’t be using their phones.”
Attorneys and judges should set an example. “If the judge is using his phone and the attorneys are using their phones, jurors logically ask, ‘Why can’t I use my phone?’”
Use the juror oath to promise to hear the testimony fairly. “I do believe people take that seriously.”
Offer rewards for good behavior. “In one case, the judge promised to keep a journal for every juror with every story written about the case if they stayed off their phones.”
Allow the jurors to ask questions. “If there’s an accident scene and you’re not going to take us there, or you’re going to use legal terms I don’t understand, well, you could get away with that 20 years ago because I wasn’t going to go to the library and look up ‘reasonable doubt’ or ‘respondeat superior.’ Now, I can just ask Siri and she’ll tell me what that means. So let them ask their own questions.”
Even though the standards for social media in the judicial system can’t be consistent, he does say things need to change if courts want jurors to be fair and impartial.
“The law doesn’t want to change,” he says. “The law says we’re going to change at a glacial pace. We are in charge. The judge and the lawyers say, we’ll tell you what you need to know. No, technology is going to force you to change and, in my opinion, it’s empowering jurors.
“I think the rules of evidence, as they are, are too restrictive. I think juries should see more. I think they should see more evidence. I don’t know how much more or where to draw the line. But I think they should see more and I think they will see more because, if we don’t give it to them, they’ll find it themselves.”
Gene Williams is a freelance writer who misses the day when letters were written by hand, calls were made from phones attached to the wall and movies were never interrupted by smartphones too dumb to stay dim in a darkened theater.
Typically when people hear “juris doctorate,” the word lawyer immediately comes to mind. But what about opera singer or JAG Corps?
These seemingly unlikely career tracks are indeed possible with a JD, as Megan Rehberg and Tom Menza of UDRI’s office of contracts and grants administration demonstrated Feb. 29 at an information session for University of Dayton School of Law students.
Rehberg held seven different internships at seven different firms before graduating from UDSL in 2009. But as the end of law school approached, she knew she wanted to be able to devote time to her hobby of opera singing. A “day job” as UDRI’s grants administrator allows Rehberg to do so while continuing to work in a position she describes as very similar to administrative law and a little like civil procedure.
Prior to attending law school, Menza was a contracting officer for the United States Air Force.
“It was the closest I could get to law school without going to law school,” he said.
Afterward, he went from the Judge Advocate General’s Corps to a law firm, and finally to UD as the contracts and grants administrator preaward.
Throughout their presentation, Rehberg and Menza stressed that students should begin networking early and reach out to friends, family members, colleagues and anyone else who could provide relevant information and contacts, regardless of their field.
Rehberg said the most important thing for students considering non-traditional JD careers to do is have their stories ready.
“Because people are going to ask right away,” she said, “‘Why don’t you want to be a lawyer?’”
Scot Ganow’s old office has perhaps the best view in the city of Dayton. A westward-facing wall of windows reveals a panorama including the Deeds Carillon, the Arena Sports Complex and the downtown Dayton skyline. From his desk, Ganow could see raptors soar on massive up currents in front of a backdrop of blue skies and distant green hills.
As senior contracts and grants administrator for the University of Dayton Research Institute, Ganow was among the first Research Institute employees moving into its new home, the 1700 South Patterson Building, where its former owner, NCR, used to have its world headquarters.
Ganow, who joined the Research Institute after graduation from the School of Law in May 2009, found the Institute’s sense of community a wonder even greater than his office view.
“These people don’t leave,” he said. “And they don’t leave for a reason. These folks are great. The Institute provides a unique environment where people can do what they love and work alongside people who share a passion for their work and UD. There is indeed a sense of family. And UDRI is doing exceptional work that benefits Dayton, Ohio and the world. It really is.”
Yet Ganow left.
The reason is both simple and complex. Ganow came to the University of Dayton School of Law with a definite goal; he wanted to practice law, specifically in the areas of data privacy and intellectual property. Thus, when an opportunity materialized to build a practice in these areas with Burton Law, he left the University to do so.
The intense focus on a goal is a feature shared by many of Ganow’s fellow graduates of the two-year program. Descriptions of the differences between students coming into the two-year program and those coming into the traditional three-year program are generalizations rather than characteristics universal to each group. And, since the two-year program’s first students graduated in 2008, there exists so far only a small sample for generalizing.
But applicants to the two-year program do seem to have definite characteristics. They are of nontraditional age. (“That is code,” Ganow said, “for old.”) They are highly motivated. They have work experience. And they are particularly concerned about cost, in terms of both money and time.
The ability to “get in and get out” was an attraction to Ganow, who when he began law school was 35 and had two children. The timeframe was also a selling point to Lauria Lynch-German, who before starting law school at age 38 was working as a private investigator and had, as she said, “a husband who wasn’t portable.” Three years out of college when he began law school, current student James Kezele was younger; but, also with a spouse and work experience, he found the prospect of “getting back to work a year earlier” an appealing attraction of UD.
Ganow’s path to the practice of law grew out of his work experience. As an undergraduate at Baylor University, he majored in premed. His career took him into the corporate world of health care data and technology. For five years before law school, he served as a corporate privacy and ethics officer. “We didn’t have inside counsel,” he said. “People would act like I was the lawyer.”
Aware that he wasn’t a lawyer, he also noticed, he said, “as a privacy officer, I was getting the ball 99 yards down the field and they were putting it in. I realized I could do that.”
One day Ganow had a discussion with the outside counsel with whom he worked — a person who later became a mentor — about the possibility of going to law school. Ganow pointed out, “I’ll be 37 when I get out.”
The reply: “If you don’t go, you’ll be 37, too.”
Recently, Ganow had a conversation with one of his former bosses on the value of an advanced degree. They agreed, Ganow said, “It’s not just the substantive material. It’s the interaction, the collective experience. You’re never too old to benefit from that.”
While Ganow gradually discovered he wanted a career in law, Lynch-German said, “I always wanted to be a lawyer. I got sidetracked.” She majored in journalism, spent 14 years in that field and then worked as a private investigator. With a husband and a career and of a nontraditional age for law students, she decided she still wanted a career in law.
Having done work for Michael Ganzer ’81 of the Milwaukee firm Hodan, Doster & Ganzer, she talked to him about law schools. He recommended his alma mater. After learning of Dayton’s two-year program, she was very interested. When she was not immediately accepted but wait-listed, she said, “I called and asked, ‘What do you want me to do?’”
The response was helpful. Since her application was five months old, the admissions staff suggested writing a letter for the admission committee about what she had been doing.
“I was doing PI work on serious sexual crimes,” she said. Writing about that — and, like a good journalist, including quotes that she obtained from people saying how valuable she was — got the attention of the admissions committee. She was accepted. In less than a month, she had to wind down her investigation business, find a place to live and move to Dayton.
When she arrived, she said, “I went to my room and then to the law school and became completely ensnared by the family values attitude.” She was even asked by a helpful staff member, she said with remembered appreciation, if she knew where the local grocery stores were.
That sense of community persisted through law school and after graduation even though she claims that during her time at Dayton, “I was constantly in trouble.”
Nevertheless, “During my first year of practice, I talked to four or five of my profs,” she said. “They were available, helpful and made a great deal of fun of me. I can still pick up the phone and ask about something like an ethical dilemma.”
She contrasted that experience with those of some people she knows from other institutions: “The first contact they have after graduation is from somebody asking for money.”
It was probably good that somebody from Dayton didn’t come calling right away about opportunities available to her to support future generations of lawyers. Lynch-German was concerned about her own income. When Ganzer offered her a job and named a salary, she called Dayton again, this time asking Tim Swensen, assistant dean and director of the career services office, what she should do about Ganzer’s offer.
His response was succinct: “Take it.”
Of her aspirations before studying law, she said: “I wanted to be the guy in To Kill a Mockingbird.” Her life now, however, is less that of a fictional lawyer and more that of a real one.
“I spend half my life doing research on arcane civil stuff,” she said. “And I love it. It has the same adrenalin rush as in journalism with a higher sense of risk. As a journalist, if you make a mistake, you write a correction. If I screw up now, somebody could go to jail.”
And she likes her work environment. Of Ganzer, she said, “He’s my friend; he’s my boss; sometimes it gets silly. I don’t know how to behave like an associate.”
That’s perhaps one reason she got a big raise after her first year.
James Kezele doesn’t know what will happen after his first year in practice. He’s now in his last year of law school. He’s spending his time now studying to become a lawyer and searching for job opportunities once he finishes at Dayton. He’s applying to midsize and large firms. And “working for the government is one of my top choices,” he said.
With a degree in government and legal studies from Claremont McKenna College and three years of postgraduate experience working in the Environmental Defense Section of the Department of Justice under its Honors Paralegal Program, he has formed an opinion of what to expect in such work.
“I loved working for the Department of Justice. It has exceptional attorneys,” he said, “with a lot of mentoring abilities.”
Kezele didn’t hurt his job chances by landing an externship last summer with Chief Judge Susan Dlott, United States District Court, Southern District of Ohio. He found the research interesting, the writing extensive and the opportunity to observe court proceedings enlightening. And, as for the mentoring, he said, Dlott is “an exceptional legal mind, and her full-time clerks are great attorneys.”
Kezele also works as a law clerk for Richard Skelton of Skelton Law in Dayton, which specializes in complex civil litigation and federal defense work. That experience, Kezele said, “has provided more great legal experience and legal mentoring.”
When he spoke to a UD prelaw class, he faced the question, “What is law school like?” His answer: “It’s a different kind of animal. It’s difficult, but definitely doable.”
He told them that law school is more work than a full-time job and a lot more work than college. He told them of the large amounts of reading, digesting, analyzing and writing but added that, with proper time management, it can be made a lot less daunting than it may seem.
Starting in May and finishing in May two years later can appear even more daunting than the traditional path of three academic years. That first summer, students have to hit the ground running with a heavy academic load. In their first fall term, summer-starts encounter a phenomenon, observed by Swensen, that makes their job search a bit different from students on the traditional three-year path. As the two-years return in the fall, they are suddenly aware that they will graduate with students, the 2Ls, who started 12 months earlier. And they notice that many of those other students are walking around in suits, going to interviews. Without even having received grades for their first term, the summer-starts have no record yet to present to prospective employers.
Nonetheless, early data on the two-years as compared to traditional students indicate similar credentials on entering, similar performance while here and similar job placement. The summer-starts’ job and life experience may give them an advantage.
Another phenomenon that differentiates starting in the summer from starting in the fall is the simple fact that in the summer there are fewer people in Keller Hall. The cohort is smaller; the classes are smaller. Many of the students have the similarity of embarking on a second career as well as family responsibilities. In that, and in the sense of being pioneers in a new program, they may resemble those students who graduated in the early years after the School of Law reopened in the 1970s.
Class dynamics also differentiate a summer start from a fall start.
“Sometimes in the fall,” said Lori Shaw, dean of students and professor of lawyering skills, “a student can go five or six weeks without being called on.”
With the summer classes for the summer-starts, each student might be called on several times a week. “That heightens their intensity,” Shaw said. “It keeps them on their toes.”
She also sees an advantage they have in the summer of a greater opportunity to meet with their professors. “Individual attention is important to them,” she said, many having been out of school several years.
And, “they take care of each other,” she said. “If a student notices another missing a class he was expected to be in, he’ll inquire about it. Everybody finds a slot in study groups — it’s simply easier with a small group to see if somebody is left out.”
Then, in the fall, she said, “They blend in.”
Ganow, Lynch-German and Kezele all pointed to a bond beyond that which tied their starting cohort together in their first summer, to a sense of community permeating not only the school but also the local bar and its relationship with UD. Long gone are local suspicions from the founding days of the law school that Dayton grads pouring into a market — previously the largest city in Ohio without a law school — would provide unwelcome competition with older law schools for local jobs. Present now is a culture of mutual support.
Jobs and salaries, however, are major concerns today as well. The economic crisis that derailed the economy has across the country hit the legal profession particularly hard. In the boom times for the investment and banking industries, legal services for those industries were in great demand. They competed to hire the best graduates of the nation’s law schools, thus driving up salaries throughout the profession. Then the bubble burst with the aftershock rippling through the market for lawyers.
What the next economic cycle will bring, no one knows. But it is clear that law school is a serious financial commitment including time out of the workforce. By eliminating one year of lost income, Dayton’s two-year program provides a strong benefit to aspiring lawyers.
How many people will take advantage of it? The answer to that question is also unclear.
“Recruiting for two-year students is different,” said Janet Hein, assistant dean and director of admissions and financial aid. Since the potential students are generally at least a year out of school and working, traditional methods of recruiting — such as on college campuses — don’t uncover them. For example, Lynch-German said she did not know of Dayton’s two-year program until she applied.
Getting the word out to those who may be interested requires new techniques — perhaps through workplaces or through advertising. In the words of Marianist founder Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, often quoted by members of the University of Dayton community: “New times call for new methods.”
While the School discovers and pursues new methods to get students to Dayton, the two-year students on their way out of school appreciate an established method to get them from campus to work: the Road to Bar Passage Program.
Of the bar exam, Lynch-German said, “You spend two years cramming, and then you are expected to belch it out.” She said she was well-prepared, however, for the bar exam in her home state (“And Wisconsin has some goofy rules”) because of Dayton’s bar passage program.
“Becky Cochran,” she said of the law professor who conducts the program, “was value-added, running around, smacking you up, making sure you did the work.”
Ganow shares Lynch-German’s opinion of Cochran and the program: “She’s as enthusiastic as anybody can be about the bar exam. All you have to do is show up and do the work. And it’s free!”
The two-year program offers a path to becoming a lawyer that has advantages of cost and time. Its success will depend on the interest of prospective students and the results it produces. Pursuing that two-year path requires a person to make a major decision about interrupting what may be a settled life. Ganow put into a few words perhaps a major reason for doing that: “To me, law school is an opportunity to build up skill sets but also to gain the autonomy to do what I wanted where I wanted.
“Today I have flexibility. I like that.”