St. Thomas University School of Law, located in Miami Gardens, Florida, was founded in 1984 as part of a Catholic university. It is fully accredited by the American Bar Association, and is one of only two accredited Catholic law schools south of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
St. Thomas School of Law offers traditional Juris Doctor and (J.D.) and Master of Laws (LL.M.) degrees as well as dual-degree programs combining a J.D. with a degree in Sports Administration, Marriage and Family Counseling, Accounting, or International Business.
Dean Alfredo Garcia served as Dean of St. Thomas Law from 2007 through 2010,
and in 2014, he began a second appointment as Dean. He is also a current professor of law, and has served the law school as Interim Associate Dean
and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.
In his message to prospective students, Dean Garcia calls St. Thomas University School of Law a "uniquely collaborative academic community." He credits the school's open-door policy, small class size, and extensive and award-winning clinical and internship programs with creating an environment that prepares law students to become successful lawyers.
We interviewed Dean Garcia about the challenges and opportunities law students face, and we asked what he thinks the future holds for the legal profession.
What is the biggest challenge facing new law students?
Law students confront structural changes in the profession ranging from the outsourcing of legal services to the diminishing, perhaps vanishing, role of jury trials as the centerpiece of our justice system. Given the transformation of the legal job market brought about by these changes and by the shock generated by the Great Recession, graduates will have to be nimble and adjust to an ever-changing legal landscape.
What is the biggest challenge that you face as Dean?
The biggest challenge I face as Dean is to remain true to our mission as a law school. As a young, Catholic law school, we are committed to providing access to the under-represented groups in the legal profession and to imbue our students with a devotion to social justice. Given the rising cost of legal education, my challenge is to provide both merit and need-based scholarships in order to foster our mission.
Which areas of the law do you think will experience the biggest growth over the next few years?
I believe that, given advances in technology, Intellectual Property will remain at the cutting-edge of our profession. Furthermore, Health Law looms large in the foreseeable future with the aging of the "baby boom" generation, the skyrocketing cost of health services, and the complexity of HIPAA.
Is teaching law now different from when you were a law student?
Teaching law is dramatically different today from when I was a law student. Technology has radically transformed the classroom, with computers and other digital media becoming an integral part of the classroom. We have also discovered, through learning theory, that some students are auditory learners while others are visual or kinesthetic learners, so we have to diversify our teaching methods. Of course, the "flipped" classroom is a novel concept that was non-existent when I studied law. Finally, the library and other research tools have been upended with the growth of digital technology.
How do you think technology will impact criminal defense?
Technology will continue to impact criminal defense with the continued and varied use of computers in the courtroom, and reliance on Power Point slides and computer simulations of various facets of a crime. Of course, DNA will continue to play a prominent role in exonerating those who are either wrongly accused or convicted of crimes.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the Supreme Court?
The Supreme Court must safeguard its legitimacy in the public eye as the ultimate arbiter of the Constitution and as the counter majoritarian guardian of the rights enshrined in the Amendments, especially in the Bill of Rights.
Are there any aspects of practicing law that you miss due to being in education?
I miss the challenge and excitement of the criminal courtroom and the intellectual exercise of preparing and arguing a criminal appeal.
If you could invite any three legal or governmental identities (living or dead, real or fictitious) to a meal, whom would you invite?
I would invite Justices John Marshall, Thurgood Marshall and Oliver Wendell Holmes to dinner.
What is your favorite legal movie?
My favorite legal movie is And Justice for All.