The Charlotte School of Law has an overriding purpose: to unlock human potential. Our immediate task is to educate students, in particular so that they can succeed in law school, on the bar examination, and in their chosen careers. But we carry out our educational activities with an eye toward the larger purpose. We identify students who have the potential to learn and succeed more broadly and we tailor comprehensive programs to build on that potential. Thus, we have a growing Honors Program; a large Student Success department; wellness counselors; programs to engender grit, self-awareness, and professionalism; and so much more.
I came to Charlotte as Dean two years ago, in large part because of the commitment to unlocking human potential. (This is a very fundamental commitment; we are also committed to unlocking the potential of our faculty and staff.) I also came for our commitment to the unceasing improvement of our programs, services, and outcomes. No person is or ever will be perfect, but every person can become better and better in personal and professional ways. In the same way, no organization is or ever will be perfect. But the more the organization understands the need for constant improvement, the better it can be in providing value, satisfaction, and success for the persons it serves.
Continuous improvement in law schools is more important today than it was even ten years ago. It is also more difficult. Legal education has long been premised on assumptions about what colleges teach and assess in the areas of writing, critical reading, and personal management; on what students teach themselves; on the nature of jobs in the legal services field; on what employers look for in graduates; and on what bar examiners test. Many of these assumptions are no longer wholly valid. Other changes in the environment are equally dramatic. Nationally, the number of applicants to law school has been declining for five years. Nationally, first-time bar passage rates have been declining (for reasons that are not clear). And both law and legal education are becoming increasingly internationalized, with respect to students, programs, and services. For law schools, adaptation and improvement is essential.
The Charlotte School of Law is continually addressing these challenges and is ever alert to opportunities. For example, we systematically concern ourselves with writing skills. We are currently developing methods for rigorously assessing writing competency and potential for improvement in applicants; expanding our introductory writing program; increasing the ongoing assessment of writing in doctrinal courses; and proving added support for student who need enrichment. Similarly, we are in the midst of a comprehensive project to strengthen the development of competencies required for success on the bar examination. This project reaches from the beginning of the first year through the day of the bar examination itself. We are expanding our opportunities for pro bono service, both in Charlotte and around the world. For example, this month we are launching a new project of pro bono service for our students in Haiti. We are also alert to changes in the legal services field. For example, this summer we are starting a new program in corporate compliance that will provide both knowledge and competitive advantage in this rapidly growing field. And there is much, much more.
I have been Dean of three law schools. One of my greatest sources of satisfaction is improving the school and its services, and enabling faculty and staff to make contributions that are both valuable to students and meaningful to the faculty and staff members themselves. The Charlotte School of Law is an extraordinary place for students to learn and grow, and to position themselves to navigate change. What makes it such an extraordinary place is not only the deep and pervasive commitment to unlocking potential, but also the deep and pervasive commitment to doing a continually better job of providing programs, services, and resources that enable that potential to be unlocked.
~Jay Conison (Dean), Charlotte School of Law~