Dean’s message

UF Law has yet another graduate – Stephen N. Zack – serving as president of the American Bar Association. How does that impact the school and its reputation?

Our graduates have held significant leadership roles in the legal arena and public and private sectors for more than 100 years. We are very proud of Steve, and we’re also proud that more Gator grads have served as ABA presidents than any other law school in the nation during the past four decades. I wonder whether any law school has ever had its alumni serve as its state bar’s current president, Mayanne Downs; immediate past president, Jay White; president-elect, Scott Hawkins; and Young Lawyer Division president, Renee Thompson; and the ABA president – all in the same year. That’s the story of our Gator alumni in 2010-11. We are not the only law school to claim leadership development as a point of pride, but graduates like these exceptional people give us a greater claim than most. I could write a book about the leadership roles and actions of the UF Law Gator Nation, and I have referred to other examples in this space before. But for now let it suffice to say that we have a strong legacy of leadership, and our alumni live up to it every day.

There’s a lot of talk these days about branding. What is the law school’s brand?

I’m told a brand is usually defined as reality, which is based on statistical data and history, intersecting with what is important to others, or the essence of the college as reflected in the minds and hearts of others. Based on that, I know we hear over and over from our many constituencies about the strength, power and connections of the Gator Nation: that we are the state’s premier law school; that our students are leaders here and as alumni; and that our graduates are highly valued by employers. They also mention our outstanding programs in tax, environmental and land use law, and family law.

That is how others see UF Law. Is this accurate, and how you want it to be known?

I believe it is accurate. Like so many others, we want to be known for excellence, of course, and we strive to attain that in all we do. I do think we get better all the time. Each of our recent classes, for example, has ever more impressive credentials. For example, the LSAT at the 25th percentile in our last entering class is higher than the median was for our entering class just four years ago, and the GPA measured at the 25th, median, and 75th percentile should be among the top 25 or 30 law schools in the country this year. Our facilities have been completely transformed during the past decade, and we are very proud of our faculty. If you examine our statistics, we have improved by nearly every measure in recent years, and that was despite state budget cuts. We owe the loyalty and support of our alumni for
much of our success.

The law school is engaged in a strategic planning process that also seeks to redefine its vision and mission. How will this impact its brand?

The strategic planning process is aimed at making us better and more effective in preparing students for success in a rapidly changing professional environment. So I believe our strongest brand components – leadership and the UF Law Gator Network, for example – will only improve. If you drill down to the program level, you will see an ongoing process to develop a collective vision for our future direction, which, of course, is occurring against the background of a rapidly changing external environment. So there are challenges, especially since strategically planning a future overlaps with the need to articulate budget priorities when funds are tight and there are many competing ideas for how resources should be allocated. The faculty, the administrative team and I are working on this, and I will keep our alumni updated on our progress in this regard. I invite your input and insights as we continue this process. You can e-mail me at jerryr@law.ufl.edu. I would like to end by pointing out that we try to recognize as many of our UF Law alumni leaders in this publication as we can, and we greatly appreciate it when you send us tips on those we may have missed. Our contact information is at the front of the magazine. Thank you for your continuing interest in and support of your law school. And, of course, Go Gators!