Michigan Law Community Voices
As you'll hear from these eleven members of the Michigan Law community, the Law School continues to evolve with the times, but our fundamental spirit hasn't changed much over the past half century. Collegiality, integrity, commitment to service, exceptional training, and a firm emphasis on critical thinking remain hallmarks that set us apart - and ahead - among the world's top law schools. Read on to learn more about how our community members put the Michigan Law ethos into practice.
"Why do we give? Because studying law at Michigan fundamentally impacted our lives. Because that experience was made possible by the generosity of alumni and benefactors who didn't know us, but wanted to provide for us as their predecessors had provided for them. We give because today's students—and tomorrow's students—deserve that same opportunity. And we give because we take pride in the reputation and standing of what Michigan represents: the leaders and best."
- John Nannes '73 // Chair, Michigan Law Development and Alumni Relations Committee and Victors for Michigan Law School Campaign
"Michigan Law's Pro Bono Pledge, which launched in 2009, formalizes our students' longstanding, strong commitment to the community. Our goal is to provide students with another outlet for gaining practical experience, with the explicit goal of increasing the number of students doing pro bono work, as well as the hours of pro bono work completed. We also seek to provide the public with much-needed legal services in a time of decreasing funding and ever increasing need, and we introduce students to their ethical obligation to do pro bono work with the hope they will carry that commitment throughout their careers. The Pro Bono Pledge is so successful at Michigan Law because our students have a strong desire both to help others and to learn as much as they can about how to be a lawyer."
- Amy Sankaran '01 // Clinical Assistant Professor of Law and Director, Externship and Pro Bono Programs
"There's a broader message to the education at Michigan Law—the idea we all are just one piece of a larger dynamic. That belief results in very active student groups and a feeling that Michigan Law is a family that takes care of each other. Our students have such a diverse range of interests, which makes the environment intellectually stimulating inside and outside of the classroom. I am president of the Law School Student Senate, a board member of the First Year Information program, co-chair of the Nannes 3L Challenge Committee, and a graduate and leader of the Michigan Access Program. The students and administration are incredibly supportive and offer their help at every step of the way, which makes it a lot easier to be an effective leader."
- Judy Conway // J.D. Candidate (May 2014)
"Students in the Michigan Innocence Clinic learn to do fact investigation, which is something you don't get from doctrinal courses. In doctrinal courses, students study cases to discover the contours of the law. But in the clinic, they knock on doors, pound the pavement, and discover the facts, which is a big part of lawyering. In many cases, not only are we applying established legal doctrines that students have learned, but we're trying to use facts to move the law forward. Sometimes my role is to guide the discussion toward a plausible result, but as often as not, students come up with ideas and thoughts that hadn't occurred to me. That is incredibly rewarding—that moment when you see it click for them. We do intensive preparation for court, and the rules state that I must be prepared to take over if things go wrong. But that's never happened. Our students are fully prepared, effective lawyers."
- David Moran '91 // Clinical Professor of Law and Director, Michigan Innocence Clinic
"Michigan sparked my interest in types of law I had never considered, but which will be helpful in my legal career. As a lawyer in the military, I am doing rotations through different types of law and am especially excited about the legal assistance rotation. Michigan Law prepared me personally for my career as a Navy lawyer, most importantly by teaching me how to be a leader. I learned how to speak up and defend my beliefs, but I also learned how to listen to others with an open mind and concede when I was wrong or misinformed. In my clinical and externship experiences, I saw good and bad lawyering firsthand, and I feel intense pressure and personal responsibility when representing my own clients."
- Caitlin Howitt '13 // Lieutenant Junior Grade, U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General Corps
"When bankruptcy research takes me into the most arcane domains of federal courts jurisprudence and the constitutional recesses of the nondelegation doctrine, I have experts just down the hall who will not just sit down with me as selfless colleagues, but will work through the issues and incorporate nuances from bankruptcy law into their own work. And Michigan's theoretical rigor is matched by its practical grounding. In addition to my scholarship in international bankruptcy, I have provided policy advice to NGOs and more formal entities such as UNCITRAL in developing new international protocols, conventions, and best practices guides for cross-border insolvency. It is an honor to be associated with Michigan Law's reputation for excellence. How many other places do you get asked to argue a case before the Supreme Court just by virtue of your expertise?"
- John Pottow // Professor of Law
"Before becoming a law professor, I was a practicing attorney focused on private equity and mergers and acquisitions transactions. Before that, I was an investment banker. I loved doing deals, but I think my current job is the best I've ever had. I love teaching students, interacting with my colleagues, and receiving the type of intellectual stimulation that life in the academy provides. I also enjoy having the freedom to pursue research topics that interest me and have the potential to influence important policy debates. A group of law and business professors at Michigan are heading an effort to start a Center on Finance, Law, and Policy that will afford opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration on financial market policy research, and our Law and Economics Workshop series provides a forum for students and professors to discuss interdisciplinary scholarly research. These cross-unit scholarly exchanges are vital, and I love that Michigan supports them."
- Alicia Davis // Professor of Law
"Michigan students are incredibly fun to teach. They're smart and curious, and they work hard. When I teach Constitutional Law, Employment Law, and Disability Rights Law, several assigned cases are ones I argued or worked on in one capacity or another. Teaching these cases lets me give the students a window into the strategic and tactical choices that lawyers (and clients) make that frame a dispute for the courts. I also sometimes assign students consent decrees I have negotiated, so that they can see what goes into what is statistically the most important part of civil litigation—the settlement process. And in Employment Law and Disability Rights Law, I teach about two statutes (the ADA Amendments Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act) that I testified before Congress to support. Based on that experience, I can give the students a firsthand look into the choices advocates and members of Congress made in drafting these statutes."
- Sam Bagenstos // Professor of Law
"My research is primarily about how law—especially criminal law and employment law—affects the behavior and decision making of individuals. This is a frame that helps students recognize that law isn't just rules written down in books. Law is a set of tools we use to solve problems in the world. Because people act and react to each other and their environment (including the legal environment) in systematic ways, we can use the law to guide this behavior in ways that make us happier, safer, and freer. Michigan Law is a friendly, challenging, and deeply intellectual place. It provides the perfect mix for great research and learning: an open and active intellectual environment, the right resources, and the best students—in the middle of a great university. Scholarship is a group endeavor, which is why we all come together at places like Michigan to work together to find truth."
- J. J. Prescott // Professor of Law
"The Transactional Lab allows students to learn the skills—both 'hard' and 'soft'—and knowledge necessary for effective practice as transactional attorneys, and gives them the opportunity to work with senior counsel at highly sophisticated companies. For students looking to go to a firm or in-house, it's invaluable to learn what these types of clients expect of their counsel. I work closely with students to produce work product that meets each Lab client's expectations. Students learn to think from the client's perspective, to analyze and draft contracts, and to consider their work product in the context of broader business objectives. And, ultimately, clients receive quality, useful work products. The Transactional Lab demonstrates Michigan Law's openness to innovation. I think this environment has helped and will continue to help the Law School stay on the leading edge of legal education."
- Michael Bloom // Clinical Assistant Professor of Law and Director, Transactional Lab
"I came to law school with the intention of working to advance LGBT equality, although I was unsure what form that should take. After learning about the exclusions and bigotry that transgender people face, I hoped to work for an organization that combats that prejudice. My experience at the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York last summer illuminated what sort of considerations and preparation go into litigation at the forefront of a legal movement for social justice. It also gave me the opportunity to speak to and learn from transgender people whose rights I wanted to protect. The support of the Spectrum Fellowship Program was immensely helpful in freeing me to do the kind of work that most animates my sense of justice and LGBT equality."
- Chas Mather // J.D. Candidate (December 2014)