Dean's Desk: Notre Dame Law in Chicago shows promise

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

newton DeanChicago is the No. 1 destination for Notre Dame Law School graduates, followed closely by Washington, D.C., New York City and Los Angeles, with Indianapolis rounding out the top five. But while many NDLS students plan to practice law in a major metropolitan area, until recently there were limited opportunities for them to explore and experience what it is actually like to practice law in a big city.

The Notre Dame Law in Chicago program helps address that need by allowing NDLS students to spend a full semester living and working in the Windy City. All participants work four days a week in an externship placement. Since the program was launched last fall, our students (some of whom have an Illinois student practice license, commonly known as a 711 license) have prosecuted felony and juvenile criminal cases, represented indigent clients in immigration and family law matters, clerked in judicial chambers, mediated civil cases, and developed environmental regulations, all while completing their related course work. While many of the externships are in agencies and nonprofits, Bob Jones, the associate dean for Experiential Programs, is working to place students in corporate counsel offices and financial regulatory agencies as well.

While our Chicago students earn academic credits for their field placements, they also participate in a weekly seminar taught in Chicago by Dean Jones. The seminar is designed to help students maximize the learning from their externships by helping them reflect on ethics questions and their own professional development. Students also must earn additional academic credits through course work that is not associated with the externship.

After a successful first year, we have decided to take the program to the next level by building it a new home in the heart of the Loop. We are in the process of remodeling and furnishing office and classroom space on the second floor of the Motorola Building (the former Santa Fe building). When the doors to this fully renovated space open in the fall of 2013, faculty and students will find office space, a conference room and a 40-person classroom equipped with the latest distance-learning technology.

We recently completed a successful experiment in distance learning when our students in South Bend participated in an international law class that was being taught in our London Law Center. Enabling our South Bend students to share the same classroom experience that is being enjoyed by our Chicago program students will open up more opportunities for students in both locations.

Connecting our Chicago and South Bend classrooms will enable us to recruit adjunct professors to teach courses in niche areas that are important to developing areas of practice. Most of our relatively small number of adjunct professors hail from nearby South Bend. A few Chicagoland attorneys have even been willing to commute to South Bend in order to teach our students on campus. Our Chicago presence, however, will enable us to expand our specialty course offerings. When we no longer have to insist that every adjunct professor make the round trip to South Bend in order to teach a class for Notre Dame, we will be better able to tap into the deep pool of experienced Chicago attorneys in a wide variety of practice areas.

We will share the Motorola Building space with Notre Dame’s College of Engineering and College of Science. For example, the Master of Science in Patent Law (MSPL) program (a venture of the Law, Science and Engineering colleges), and ESTEEM (the Engineering, Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Excellence Masters Program) are also planning to introduce programs in Chicago. All of our on-campus partners, including the College of Arts and Letters, will be able to join us in using the site for panels and small conferences, giving us an opportunity to introduce more Notre Dame programs and faculty to our many Chicago alumni.

I have great expectations for our school’s new move into the Windy City. When NDLS students can fully experience the beautiful Notre Dame campus while taking additional courses as they are being taught in our Chicago classroom, they will have the best of both worlds. And when NDLS students can learn what it is like to practice law in a major metropolitan area before making the commitment to move there permanently, they will be better able to make an informed decision about the direction they would like their careers to take. The Law in Chicago program shows a great deal of promise. I will keep you posted on how it develops.•


Nell Jessup Newton is The Joseph A. Matson Dean and Professor of Law at Notre Dame Law School. She has served as dean since 2009. The opinions expressed are those of the author.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.