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Five Questions with Dean Robert K. Vischer

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University of St. Thomas School of Law Dean Robert K. Vischer answers five questions about leading UST law and other issues facing the legal community today. 


1. Two years into COVID, what’s surprised you the most during this time at the University of St. Thomas School of Law? 

One awesome surprise has been the amount of grace extended and perseverance demonstrated by our students. During the most intense periods of COVID, I think student complaints actually decreased. They appreciated the efforts of faculty and staff, and they didn’t let the day-to-day hassles distract them from the big picture. Our students were inspiring.


2. With much discussion focused on the future of the bar exam, what are your feelings about possible changes or a new approach to admitting attorneys to practice?

I fully support efforts by the Board of Law Examiners to explore alternative pathways to licensure. There is no easy fix that will satisfy all stakeholders, but I think we need to be careful not to stick with what we’ve always done simply because we’ve always done it. We need to make sure that our licensing requirements are actually aligned with the reasons it’s important to have licensing requirements.


3. The role of attorneys, the justice system, community engagement and advocacy, have been in the news a lot this year with a number of high-profile cases here in cities. What have discussions been like with students around these events?

When I attended law school in the 90s, there was a lingering belief that many college graduates were choosing law school based on the “L.A. Law” effect—i.e., television images of a glamorous, highly compensated career. The “L.A. Law” effect is a distant memory today. In its place, I believe, is a deep attraction to law school based on the impact lawyers can have in the world. The last few years have shown that civilization is thin, and the rule of law cannot be taken for granted. Students want to talk about why and how law matters to people’s lives today.


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4. With a renewed focus on wellbeing in the legal profession, how have you taken care of yourself during this time?

I’m a work in progress on that front. On one hand, I’m more attentive to sleep than I used to be. On the other hand, my consumption of Diet Coke has increased dramatically.


5. How can the bar associations support this rising generation of lawyers?

We are coming out of two years marked by distance and isolation. Even though some level of remote working is likely here to stay, our students crave relationship and face-to-face interactions. Lawyers who had twenty years of legal practice to build relationships are able to navigate remote work while maintaining their networks of support. But recent graduates who haven’t had the chance to build those relationships are struggling in a world where opportunities to connect in person have been fewer and farther between. They need those opportunities.

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