100 Years of UF Law

Dean Robert Jerry

Dean Robert Jerry

Q: If you look back at what the University of Florida College of Law has accomplished in the past century, what do you think has been and is its greatest strength?

Our alumni, without question. As a collective they represent some of the most passionate members of the University of Florida Gator Nation. Individually, many of our graduates have gone on to significant leadership roles, and that reflects well on the quality of our students and the training they received here. UF Law alumni include four presidents of the American Bar Association since 1973 — and Steve Zack will become president-elect in August 2009; the majority of The Florida Bar presidents, including its current president, Jay White; four governors of Florida; and hundreds of state senators and representatives and Florida Cabinet members. Nine became college presidents, including two at UF. More than a dozen have served as deans of law schools. We rank in the top five among public law schools in the number of graduates serving as federal district and circuit court judges. The participation and loyalty of our alumni make us stronger in so many ways. Of the 333 UF alumni who have received the UF Distinguished Alumnus Award, 95 are alumni of the law school. This speaks powerfully about the leadership provided by our college during the last century.

Q: How are you celebrating the college’s centennial?

We welcomed 250 registrants for our centennial all-class reunion in April, and we were gratified at the number of alums who wanted to come back to campus. We are still finalizing plans for this fall, and I can’t say much yet, but I believe we will host a top-level legal speaker here in the fall. Plans are also underway for an alumni open house/tailgate prior to the homecoming game, as well as a number of other events. Watch upcoming issues of UF Law eNews (available through your e-mail or our Web site) for developing news. We also have developed an online historical timeline for the college that features the opportunity for alums to contribute their own stories. (More on page 28.)

Q: What challenges will the college deal with in the next 100 years?

Well, 100 years is a long time, but certainly we will have to continually fine-tune our academic and administrative programs to keep pace with developments in the legal field. For now, we are working hard to help our graduates find employment in this very difficult economy and to maintain the quality of the college in an extremely tight-budget environment.

Q: What can alums do to help?

Obviously, private support is very important to us and the students it benefits. We also rely on our alumni and friends to remember the value of hiring UF Law graduates. An emerging but very important role for those who care about our college is to become its advocates in social media, from Facebook to blogs, and make sure others know the truth about the many good things going on here.

Q: What is your top priority right now?

These are complex and challenging times, and it’s difficult to choose one very important goal over another. But certainly we have to focus on the strategic planning process so we can best prepare our institution and our graduates to deal successfully with a rapidly shifting legal environment. I wrote last time of our major strategic planning effort, “UF Law 2015,” which also will help us prepare for the Strategic Plan & Self-Study required for the ABA sabbatical site visit in spring 2010. I know that the faculty on our Strategic Planning Committee welcome alumni suggestions, and I encourage our readers to let us know how we can improve our programs, services and direction.