Colorado Law Action Plan: Objectives for the Future

April 23, 2013

As Colorado Law looks to the future and the changing legal landscape, it asks: what will help Colorado Law thrive?  For Dean Phil Weiser, the Action Plan is the answer.

"The Colorado Action Plan sets out in succinct terms what we’re about, who we are, and why we’re special," Weiser said. "I feel we are off to a great start in preparing Colorado Law for a thriving future."

The Action Plan vision:

Maintain and improve Colorado Law as a nationally recognized innovator and the regional leader in the changing legal landscape based on the quality of our scholarship, teaching, and curriculum, all of which deliver a high value to our students and serve our communities.

The Action Plan’s goals are to:

  • Provide students with an excellent return on their investment—educating them and training them to be outstanding legal professionals who are sought out for, and thrive in, satisfying, and gainful employment
  • Maintain an engaged, diverse, and inclusive community of outstanding students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends who help and support one another as well as serve our communities
  • Develop a sustainable financial model that weathers the continued falloff in state support while minimizing any future tuition increases
  • Produce top scholarship and provide thought leadership that engages a variety of audiences, and addresses the contemporary issues of the profession and our communities
  • Communicate that we are doing something special

Faculty members echo the importance of supporting students and community featured prominently in the Action Plan. Deborah Cantrell, associate professor and director of clinical programs, emphasizes the importance of giving back to the community.

"A feature of the clinical program that I find very important to the Action Plan is that it’s one of the ways the law school says to the community 'You’re important to us,'" Cantrell said. "Free legal services are a scarce resource and I’m really proud that the law school is able to give that scare resource to the community."

Associate Professor William Boyd says that an important part of what both the Action Plan and law schools in general aim to do is prepare students to solve complex problems we all face as a society. 

"I think the only way we can do that is by developing a diverse, inclusive, and engaged community—which is a big part of our Action Plan—and really going all-in for our students," said Boyd. 

The plan complements and relies on the Campaign for Colorado Law’s Future—a $40 million fundraising campaign to support scholarships, loan repayment assistance programs, professorships, and core programs. The campaign aims to strengthen these pillars, all of which are part of the Action Plan’s overall goals.

Scholarships

Part of the campaign’s goal is to fund additional student scholarships to help significantly reduce student debt. More than 65 percent of current students receive scholarship funds, with the median scholarship around $8,000 a year. 

Several current students cite scholarship offers both before and during law school as opening doors to their choice of careers.

"I feared that my mounting debt would realistically leave only one door open for me—the door with the highest-paying job behind it," said class president Ari Stiller-Shulman (’13). "Thankfully, I received some very generous scholarships. I have started looking seriously into working in the nonprofit or government sectors after I graduate."

Both professors and students indicate that scholarships can play a big role in a student’s decision to choose a particular law school

"It’s important that we attract a high level of student here," said Mark Loewenstein, Monfort Professor of Commercial Law. "That’s not possible if we are not able to provide scholarships. I think the school would be quite a different place and I think the profession would be somewhat poorer as a result."

Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

While scholarships help students carry their burden of debt during school, LRAP focuses on continuing that support once they graduate. 

"The reason LRAP is important is that so many of our graduates go into public service work," said Todd Rogers, assistant dean for career development. "Often, these positions are lower-paid than private sector jobs. These are great opportunities and we want our students to be able to take advantage of them."

In one figure by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows for every $10,000 in debt, graduates are 6 percent less likely to choose a public service career. With graduates averaging over $100,000 in debt, the need for LRAP is higher than ever. Cantrell said that LRAP plays an important role in encouraging students to follow their interests. 

"We have students who are interested in working in all sorts of settings, in all kinds of legal jobs, some of which are tightly funded," Cantrell said. "If we want our students to be able to flourish as lawyers, they need to be able to go where their heart calls them. LRAP is a key feature of financial support that we can provide."

Professorships

Another goal of the Action Plan is to continue the tradition of top scholarship and thought leadership, a goal that is maintained, in large part, by funding professorships.

"Our faculty here at Colorado Law are exceptional," said Weiser. "We have faculty who not only care about our students, who not only are engaged across the university, but who are really international leaders in their fields."

For Ahmed White, professor and associate dean for research, funding professorships play two important functions.

"Professorships allow us to expand and intensify our coverage of important areas of the curriculum,” White said. “They allow us to defer the overall cost of providing a high quality education to our students."

Funding from the campaign could support six additional professorships.

Programs

Hands-on engagement plays a large part in today’s legal education. Through the funding of core programs, such as centers, clinics, competitions, experiential learning, and career development, students are well prepared to enter the legal field after graduation.

"In the clinical program we ask our students to step up and take the lead as student-attorneys," Cantrell said. "The faculty members stand behind the students and support them, but we expect our students to be front and center."

Brad Bernthal, associate professor, said that clinics are where students first have the opportunity to advise and counsel clients.

"Clinics are the labs of the law school," Bernthal said. "There’s really nothing else like it in terms of bringing along the next generation of attorneys."