Wayne State University

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Dean offers strategic plan for Law School’s next year

February 15, 2013

In the Law School’s first-ever State of the Law School address, Wayne State University Law School Dean Jocelyn Benson succinctly stated her goal for the next year: “Jobs, jobs, jobs.”

 She outlined some of the ways she plans to attain that goal during the Feb. 7 address.
“Our obligation … is to help you reach your full potential,” she told law students, adding that her strategic plan for the next year is geared toward helping them find the jobs they most want after graduation, and to send them out to be “advocates for justice in our state and our country.”
And that means further improving the school’s bar passage rate, even though it’s already higher than the state average for law schools.
She wants the school to help graduates be “better prepared to not just pass the bar, but pass it with flying colors,” Benson said.
With that aim in mind, Wayne Law will cover the costs for student enrolled in preparatory courses for both parts of the exam, and is hiring a new person “whose job will be solely to work with you one-on-one” to prepare third-year students for the bar exam, she said.
Benson also pledged to “invigorate the partnerships” the school has with its faculty and alumni, “bringing our personal networks to bear” to help students find meaningful jobs, she said. She has initiated a speaker series featuring alumni using their law degrees in “nontraditional” jobs.
The Law School’s 11,000 alumni are “our secret weapon,” Benson told students. “They want to help use their careers to help you with yours.”
She will be encouraging alumni to serve as mentors for students. Acting on an idea by Professor Eric Zacks, she has launched a computer “dashboard” where students can put in their contact information and their job field wish list, and be matched up and advised by the appropriate alumni and faculty. If, for instance, a third-year student hopes to work in entertainment law in California, faculty and alumni in that field can contact the student, and counsel, refer or even hire him or her through the dashboard.
Benson also outlined another new Alumni Speaker Series that will help students network and connect to the jobs they want. Alumni will be coming to Wayne Law this fall to mentor students, guest lecture a class and hold brown-bag lunches.
“This is how we are going to use our incredible resources of alumni to work with students and build connections to help further your career,” she said.
Other steps toward Benson’s goal of improving the Law School and helping its graduates:
*New programs and expansions for the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights.
“No other law school in the area can match our commitment in (public interest law,)” she said.
*A new business law program, to be called the Program on Entrepreneurship and Business Law (or PEBL — pronounced “pebble”).
“PEBL will take all the things we’re doing and give them some structure and add some new things, preparing students to practice business and engage the community to grow opportunities,” Benson said.
*Enhanced emphasis on the Program for International Legal Studies.
That program, Benson said, “is, in my view, unrivaled by other schools in Michigan.” She spoke of a partnership with a prominent law school in China that should bring about a dozen Chinese students to work on an LL.M. in U.S. Law at Wayne Law, further enhancing the PILS and its work.
And finally, Benson drove home the point: “My goal is ensuring that each and every one of you are able to fully succeed in the careers you are launching here at Wayne Law.”