This quarter, I write you filled with optimism about the future.
By now, you all have heard the incredibly encouraging news about the success of the vaccines. I am excited that, very soon, I will be able to share a room with you again, hear in person about your lives and work, and, maybe, even, shake your hands!
At the same time, I recognize that I have been lucky during the pandemic. I kept my job, did not get COVID-19, and did not have a family member get sick or pass away. To those of you who suffered as a result of the pandemic, my heart goes out to you. Please do not hesitate to reach out and let us know if your law school can do anything to support you.
As for McGeorge, we are in the middle of a period of great and positive change, which has me thinking a lot about the concept of change: about how, for some of us, our society is changing much too fast and, for others, far too slowly.
While I, personally, tend to find myself in the latter group, even I would concede that change at McGeorge is moving at a good pace. When I arrived at McGeorge four years ago, the law school was on a downward arc. Our budget had been in the red for years, our U.S. News ranking had fallen off a ledge to the point where it was no longer even published, our bar pass rate had plummeted (both in absolute and relative terms), our graduates were struggling to get jobs, our student entrance credentials had declined significantly, our fundraising was falling far short of our competitors’, and many of our alumni were not engaged.
Four years later, changes to our curriculum, academic support and bar pass programming, marketing, career services, recruitment, yield, bar pass programming, fundraising, and alumni engagement have started to pay off.
- Our budget is on solid footing and has been for the past three years.
- Our U.S. News Ranking is once again published and is the highest in eight years.
- Our bar pass rate on the July/October 2020 bar exam, 86%, was the law school’s highest in 25 years, exceeded the average of the California ABA Law Schools for only the second time since the mid-1990s, tied Hastings’ pass rate, and was better than the rates of Santa Clara, San Francisco, Chapman, Pepperdine, and many other law schools.
- Our February 2021 bar pass rate, 80%, was ranked second in the state among the California ABA Law Schools and exceeded the average of the California ABA Law Schools by 11 percentage points.
- Our U.S. News job placement rate for the class of 2019 was our highest in McGeorge recorded history.
- Our U.S. News job placement rate for the class of 2020 was even higher and was, in fact, considerably higher than the rates of Hastings, U.C. Irvine, Santa Clara, Pepperdine, San Diego, was and just a bit higher than Loyola’s.
- Our student entrance credentials have improved each of the past three years, and we are on track for an increase again next fall.
- Our fundraising has made up much of the ground on our competitors’ fundraising advantage; and
- We have added three new alumni boards: a Dean’s Cabinet, a Diversity Board, and an Advocacy Center Board; created an alumni-student mentoring program that is a required part of our curriculum; and developed a new Alumni in Action Zoom series in which we feature one or more accomplished alumni each month or so.
While we have made progress, we have more work to do. Our U.S. News ranking does not yet reflect the fact that McGeorge offers the best student-centered, practice-focused, community serving legal education in the country. We need to raise sufficient funds for three main purposes: to expand the technology facets of our educational program to better prepare our students for the future; to insure McGeorge students do not have to take on exorbitant debt to go to law school; and to create a transactional business legal clinic that serves our local, Oak Park community.
And we need to make considerably more progress on our vow to become an antiracist law school.
We have succeeded in altering our student course evaluation form to have students evaluate the degree to which our faculty create an inclusive classroom environment, modifying our syllabi to include a link to the university bias incident reporting process, and overhauling faculty annual self-assessments (which are part of the annual faculty evaluation process) to include three questions relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We created and offered three, new DEI-related courses: Implicit Bias and the Law, Workplace Investigations, and Racial Justice Practicum; and we hosted five different outside experts to provide DEI training to our faculty, staff, and students. We also contracted for an in-depth, year-long Diversity Audit, which will be completed next fall.
To be clear, I am certain that the Diversity Audit will identify real issues that require us to change. We need to improve, and, based on what I have seen from my faculty and staff colleagues, from our students, and from you, our wonderful alumni, we will.
I hope I have convinced you that your law school is on the rise, moving in the right direction, and has a bright future. I am certain that, with your help, our metrics, including our U.S. News ranking, will once again reflect the excellence of a McGeorge degree.
I welcome your feedback, engagement, and support.
Michael Hunter Schwartz