In reaching out to law schools across the country to gain insight from law deans and law school administrators, we were able to speak with Gary S. Gildin, law professor and interim dean of the Dickinson School of Law at Penn State University.
Dickinson Law is one of the oldest law schools in the nation, and that history offers students a rich tradition of quality legal education that equips them to become effective practicing lawyers in a range of fields. The school prides itself on providing law students with experiential learning from the very beginning of their legal education, through experiential opportunities in the curriculum, internships and clinics, moot court, semester in practice, and public interest and pro bono opportunities.
Dean Gildin earned his Juris Doctor from Stanford Law, and he considers both the academic and legal sides of his profession to be equal. He is both a teacher and a lawyer, who continues to engage in pro bono litigation for constitutional rights infringement. He holds a number of professional memberships and honors that show his commitment to legal education and to the legal profession. He is the Hon. G. Thomas and Anne G. Miller Chair in Advocacy and the Director of the Center for Public Interest Law and Advocacy.
We are grateful to Dean Gildin for taking the time to answer our questions about the evolving face of legal education and what challenges and opportunities the future of the legal profession holds for law students.
When asked what the biggest challenges facing law students, Dean Gildin remarked that there is a huge expectation from the modern legal workplace in which companies and firms expect their employees to be “profession ready”. Obviously much of the readiness arrives from experience working in the field, but this demand has certainly risen in past years. As Dean, one of his biggest challenges is how to responsibly use his leadership as a “catalyst for change”, in regard to law schools and their role to establish innovation within legal education.
While talking about areas of growth, Dean Gildin remarked that nation-wide economic gains have caused companies to hire more in-house counsels, notably within the healthcare system. Although, he added this caveat: “I wish that we would see significant growth in lawyers available to meet the legal needs of persons of limited means, but sadly expect that inequality in access to justice will worsen rather than improve.”
While talking politics, Dean Gildin espoused a view held by many: that the Supreme Court remain neutral in the mind of the public. Obviously recent political events have dimmed that hope, and Dean Gildin expects that the upcoming confirmation of Justice Scalia’s successor will undoubtedly raise cynicism in regard to the courts.
On a light-hearted note, Dean Gildin pointed out that his favorite legal or governmental identities are Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama, and Gerry Spence. In terms of favorite legal movies, Dean Gildin pointed to To Kill A Mockingbird and A Few Good Men.
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