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Dean Daniel Rodriguez as Problem Solver

Northwestern Law dean talks about taking risks in a time of enormous change

EVANSTON, Ill. --- In a recent edition of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, Northwestern University School of Law Dean Daniel B. Rodriguez discusses what sets Northwestern Law apart, his bold responses to a rapidly changing legal market and how his decisions have been greatly informed by his listening tour with experienced lawyers.

The series is part of the Bulletin’s occasional Q&A series with deans of Illinois law schools.

Read the article online at the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (registration may be required).

For Rodriguez, the best part of being a law school dean is the important role he plays in problem solving. As dean, attorney and Harold Washington Professor at Northwestern Law, he has plenty of opportunities to address “such fascinatingly complex issues involved in legal education and the legal profession.” 

Until very recently, he said in the article, law schools have been slow to adapt to the dramatic changes in the legal world. Among his new initiatives, he has decreased Northwestern Law’s class size, believing there is a mismatch between the number of J.D.s who graduate each year and the demand the legal economy is creating and can sustain.

“My style is to promote change, draw upon the collective wisdom of all of our stakeholders to mobilize those efforts and take some risks and chances along the way,” Rodriguez said in the Q&A.

He strongly believes in the “Northwestern Law Difference.”   

“What sets Northwestern apart from other law schools is we put a very high premium on the person and the experience they have between college and law school,” Rodriguez continued in the article. “Many of our students have been out in the working world after college. We interview the students who apply for our law school, and no other school does that to the level we do.”

The student who best aligns with the "Northwestern Law Difference,” he said, “has a high level of personality and inner personal skills that you could only learn when you meet that student and interact with them.”

Listening to experienced lawyers, working “in the trenches,” has been essential to his leadership, he stressed in the piece.

“The most important lesson I've learned is the importance of listening to experienced lawyers — many of whom are our alumni — about their perspectives about how the profession is changing, how their own careers have evolved and what consequences that has for what we do in law school.”

The “bold and risk-taking” dean is optimistic about the future of law.

“What the future holds is reasonably bright and promising with a very important condition attached to that,” he concluded in the Q&A. “ If we adapt and change -- both in our financial structures and economic conditions and also in our curriculum and our programs -- then our American law schools will come out healthier than ever before.”

To read Dean Rodriguez’s reflections, visit his blog, Word on the Streeterville.

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