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So Long and Thanks for Everything

This is my last message to the Western New England University School of Law community as your Dean. Thank you for allowing me to lead this institution for the past five years. It has been an honor.

Since 2013 we have made a significant number of changes at the School of Law designed to enhance the program, increase the value of your degree, respond to market pressures, and position the School for future growth.

The economic crisis that began in 2008 cast a very long shadow on the legal industry and legal education. In 2013, law school applications were down nationally and legal jobs were disappearing. Commentators criticized law school as a bad economic deal and for failing to prepare students to practice law.

We took steps to address those criticisms. On the first point, we froze our law school tuition for five years—from 2013-14 through 2017-18. We increased institutional scholarship and raised privately funded scholarships from generous donors. That kept the “investment” part as low as possible. At the same time we invested in bar exam success programs and an enhanced program to make the "return" part as high as possible.

On the professional training front, we revamped our curriculum to focus on professional skills— integrating writing and skills credits throughout the curriculum. We instituted our intense, one-week simulation in the first year where students work with lawyers from the practicing bar on a simulated case. We beefed up our externship program, and we added four clinics. We created the beautiful new clinical space at the Blake Law Center so we now have a “law firm in the law school.”

Along the way, we extensively revamped our academic standards to meet the new ABA Standards, reimagined our curriculum to offer a quality program amid a steady stream of faculty retirements, held important events, had competition team successes, saw a number of alumni/ae sworn in as judges, developed a robust alumni program, helped sponsor a visit to Springfield by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and celebrated as our talented faculty members were recognized many times for their professional achievements.

I am leaving the School in a good position and in good hands. Applications are up in both number and quality, our ultimate bar pass rate is well above the national average, and job placement remains strong. I am not going anywhere—just moving back upstairs to my faculty office as I prepare to re-enter the classroom after a five-year hiatus.

Thanks again for five years as dean (and twenty-six as a faculty member) of this special, incredible institution.

Eric Gouvin 
Dean and Professor of Law