George Mason University School of Law will seek to be a national leader in legal education by applying the tools of economics and other social sciences to the study of legal doctrine, process, and institutions. The law school will foster a community of faculty and students which is both learned and worldly, with the aim of producing the leaders of bench, bar, business, government, education and scholarship in service of the public good. George Mason has already established itself as a strong and innovative voice in legal education. It has not sought to position itself across the wide spectrum of legal methodologies and subject matters to be found in law schools nationally, but has focused on doing fewer things well and building systematically on its competitive advantages. It will continue to adhere to this template in order to consolidate its position as a formidable institution of professional education.
The Law School has three outstanding competitive advantages with which to drive its goals. First, and foremost, it profits from having a culture of intellectual seriousness, which affects the work of students and faculty alike. Second, the school’s location makes it a magnet for professors and students whose professional plans entwine with activities specific to the national capital. Third, the university has an internationally visible Department of Economics, which is growing both in prominence and aspiration, much of whose work is germane to the domain of law and public policy.
To accomplish the Law School’s goals, it must:
- Attract High Quality Students, and Train them Rigorously: The quality of a law school depends first of all on the caliber of its students. The law school has enrolled a student body which is among the strongest nationally. The most recent entering class was drawn from over 89 undergraduate institutions, and close to 46% are from out-of-state. The law school seeks to enroll increasingly promising classes of students and to prepare them, with superior instruction strongly inflected with the Law & Economics approach to legal studies, for professional careers in the national capital region, where the great majority of them – from wherever they come – remain to practice. Mason Law students have routinely outperformed the state average on bar passage. In July 2013, the all-schools average Virginia State Bar pass rate for first-time takers was 79.54%, while the George Mason bar pass rate for first-time takers was 93.37%, highest of any law school in the Commonwealth.
- Maintain High Standards for Its Faculty: The law school faculty has consistently been among the most professionally influential of any in the country as measured by Social Science Research Network downloads and by scholarly reputation (faculty ranks 21st in “scholarly impact” based on citations per capita between 2007 and 2011 [Leiter, 2012]; 24th in median per capita citations (ibid.); 26th in “reputation” as rated by other academics [Leiter, 2003]; ranked 18th of 350 law faculties in Social Science Research Network downloads of faculty research papers [October 2013]). It will be necessary to insist that colleagues continue if not improve the productivity that generates so much favorable notice. Similarly, the part-time (adjunct) faculty, drawn from one of the deepest talent pools in the country, must continue to reflect the high ambitions of the school’s instructional program.
- Retain Focus on the Study of Law & Economics: The law school’s heritage as a “law & economics” law school is a competitive advantage in its own right because it is a recognizable and recognized brand. But beyond that advantage, there is a widely shared sense that the analytic rigor of the law & economics approach offers students superior preparation for legal careers. Furthermore, it furnishes the faculty with a common culture and frame of reference in which to structure appointments priorities and curriculum. It has been a decade since Brian Leiter ascertained (by polling law professors) that George Mason’s faculty deserved to be ranked 9th in the entire country in Law & Economics. The school’s concentration on the value of public choice theory, game theory, microeconomic theory, and statistical and quantitative methods in analyzing and understanding the law has only grown stronger since then. The Law & Economics Center (LEC), currently a $5+ million per year operation, runs instructional programs for state and federal judges (to date, over 4000 sitting federal and state court judges from all 50 states have taken LEC judicial education programs), for state attorney generals’ staffs, and for law professors; sponsors several colloquia per year for work-shopping the scholarship of young law professors from universities and law schools across the country, sponsors large-scale empirical research pro bono publico, and produces empirical policy advice and research for the bipartisan Civil Justice Reform caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives.
- Develop Additional Related Areas of Concentration and Intellectual Leadership: George Mason has supplemented its core competencies in law & economics by giving increased attention to other areas of interdisciplinary study such as intellectual property, legal history and constitutional studies. The law faculty has several prominent legal historians and constitutional scholars, whose work complements the instructional program and addresses matters of student interest and particular relevance to the local market. In October of 2012, the School of Law started the Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property to explore the utility of traditional conceptions of property to the creation of res novae and their potential contributions to the innovative capacity of the national economy.
- Concentrate Educational Offerings on Matters Particularly Relevant to the Local Market: The law school must exploit its natural geographic advantages in order prepare students for the highly competitive DC-area legal market. In addition to Intellectual Property and constitutional/historical studies, the school will consider increasing its offerings on Immigration Law (of increasing interest to students and highly germane to a metropolitan area with very large immigrant populations) and Homeland Security Law. The school has created a new National Security Law Journal and has expanded the services provided by the law school’s Clinic for Legal Assistance to Servicemembers and Veterans.
- Emphasize Legal Research and Writing: The skill that members of the bar say that they most often find deficient in new law graduates is legal writing. George Mason has responded to this concern by requiring four semesters (not only two, as in most other law programs) of legal research, writing, and analysis, as well as a senior writing requirement. Law school graduates, we know, follow many different career paths, and for that matter many different careers which in some cases are quite remote from traditional law practice, but a common thread for virtually all is mastery, not mere proficiency, in producing complex written narrative. Because clear writing aids, and is in turn aided by, analysis, and because it is something close to a universal tool in a law graduate’s professional toolkit, legal writing will continue to be emphasized in the instructional program.