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Dear Friends,

This is an exciting time to be

dean of South Dakota’s only law

school and I am honored to serve

as dean. The national law school

accrediting agency is allowing

and encouraging innovation and

demanding improved outcome

assessment. Concurrently, the State

of South Dakota (through the Board

of Regents and the University) is

giving the law school more budgeting

authority, flexibility and accountability

to find its own way.

And your law school is


The low income tax

controversy clinic, this law school’s first clinic, is up and running

and the IRS grant that provides 50 percent of its funding has been

renewed for another year. Additionally, we are excited by new

experiential partnership opportunities that are being explored and

developed across the region by Ramon Ortiz-Velez (Visiting Director

of Experiential Learning), Tiffany Graham (Associate Dean) and the

career services office.

Your law school is innovating

in the design and assessment of

teaching, learning and the curriculum. Moreover, the curriculum is

broader and richer with continued experimentation with one or two

distance learning courses a year (for example, we tried Bankruptcy

Procedure last year and are trying Health Care Compliance this year).

Further, we continue to work closely with practicing lawyers in the

nationally unique South Dakota Practice Course (special thanks to

TomWelk and Barry Vickrey).

Your law school is innovating

by providing more students more

opportunities to develop and compete in national skills tournaments.

We believe USD Law has the highest student participation rate

in national competitions in the nation. And we are competitive:

trial teams were invited to more than a half dozen elite invitational

competitions and one of the Transactional Law teams placed fifth in

the country (and most students participate in only one contest).

Your law school is innovating

to keep tuition as low as possible

(in-state tuition and fees are about $15,500 compared with $35,000

or more for in-state tuition at many public schools). One example of

savings is our reorganization of the school’s administrative structure

and its faculty mix in order to be in the smallest two percent of all

law schools in both faculty and staff efficiency; reducing costs across

the board.

Your law school is innovating

to continue to improve bar passage

rates which have dipped regionally the past two years (e.g., Montana,

Idaho, North Dakota and South Dakota). Indeed, the national pass

rates were the lowest ever. Last year we offered students a voluntary

three week “pre-bar preparation” course for less than 10 percent of the

retail cost and committed $20,000 in foundation funds from donors

like you to provide the course. We are doing more this year.

Your law school is innovating

to attract the best and the

brightest students in South Dakota, regionally, and even nationally in

order to fulfill our mission (typically no more than about two-thirds

of our students sit for the South Dakota Bar Exam). Nick McInerney,

Law School Director of Admissions and Communication, now

travels six to eight weeks every fall doing face-to-face recruiting and

another week or two in the spring doing the same. In addition,

the law school participates in the State Bar’s Native American Law

Student Pipeline Project.

Your law school is innovating

a mark to help the public identify

our unique value among law schools by commissioning a new formal

University of South Dakota School of Law seal.

Finally, your law school, with your help, must innovate


the area of support and caring for our students, graduates and other

lawyers. In a recent “President’s Corner” column in the South Dakota

State Bar newsletter, Eric Shulte cited a study by Johns Hopkins

University that lawyers have the highest rate of depression of any

profession. Shulte suggested: “[W]e ... need to sincerely care about

each other’s wellbeing. We are in this together.”

Thank you to the State Bar (President Shulte and Young Lawyers’

President Overmoe, in particular) and to many individual lawyers for

their thoughtfulness and their support to the law school community

when a popular second-year student died recently and unexpectedly

from depression. Depression is a disease. Diseases can disable and kill

in many ways. The support offered the students by practicing lawyers

illustrates that we do, or at least can, sincerely care about each other.

In addition, the sudden death of an aspiring lawyer reminds us of the

necessity to stay vigilant to help each other and ourselves. The most

important person to whom to be kind might be yourself.

We may be reminded, too, that life does not pause during law

school. For many, life as a law student is more intense than any

other previous experience. I recently read an article stating that 96

percent of law students reported stress compared to 70 percent of

medical students. Please help innovate in keeping law school and the

legal profession as safe and as healthy, both mentally and physically,

as possible.

As always, feel free to come home to the law school; I’ll buy you

a cup of coffee. We are proud of all the great things you do. Let me

know how we can help you.



Dean and Professor of Law

Adjunct Graduate Professor, Beacom School of Business

Faculty Affiliate, Department of Biology