From the Dean
photography by denmarsh
As I was reviewing the content of this issue of Pitt Law Magazine, the old adage “The more things change, the more they stay the same” came to mind. It struck me that several of the stories in the magazine would not have appeared ten years ago. Part of this is the sad result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The story of Barbara Bonn Powell, ’91, who in her position as Federal Security Director at Newark Liberty International Airport takes the lead in ensuring the safety of passengers flying out of Newark Liberty, is one example. Similarly, while Professor David Harris first rose to scholarly prominence as a result of his work on racial profiling, post 9/11 he is focusing his attention on the dangerous effects of law enforcement profiling of individuals based on their Middle Eastern or Muslim appearance. By contrast, it is technological change that makes the story about Dan Fawcett, ’88, and his innovative work in entertainment’s digital arena, a story that would have been beyond the realm of most people’s imagination ten years ago.
Certainly, these stories demonstrate how Pitt Law alums and faculty have found their way to the forefront in areas of great economic and public importance. But they also remind me vividly of just how difficult it is to know what kinds of questions attorneys will be called on to work on ten years from now—what kind of public problems will press on our society and its lawyers, what kind of technological changes will produce new legal uncertainties. As a result, we in legal education have to try to prepare law students today to respond to issues and challenges that we cannot forecast or perhaps even imagine.
Of course, the foundational skills that legal education has traditionally imparted—analytical thinking, ethical reflection, and precise communication—are likely to remain central to an attorney’s role however times change. These things indeed remain the same. But for Pitt Law to excel in preparing lawyers to flourish professionally and to serve the public in a future almost certainly characterized by rapid change, then we must anticipate the additional skills that tomorrow’s lawyers will need. Bruce MacEwan, a respected blogger on the economics of law firms, recently suggested that the essential traits that will enable practicing attorneys to succeed in whatever the future holds are creativity and leadership, and that, accordingly, law schools should seek to foster these traits in today’s students. What skills or traits do you think that lawyers a decade from now will need to succeed? I’d love to hear from you.