Message from Dean Douglas


August 31, 2011

Dear Alumni and Special Friends of Marshall-Wythe,

Greetings from Williamsburg! On August 22 we began another new academic year and we are poised for another outstanding chapter in our history!


We have 217 new first-year law students in the Class of 2014, selected from almost 6,000 applications. They are, for the third year in a row, the most academically talented group of students that we have ever enrolled, as measured by their LSAT scores and undergraduate grade point averages. The median LSAT for our entering class is 165; the median undergraduate GPA is 3.73.  By way of contrast, the median LSAT for the Class of 2001 was 162 and the median undergraduate GPA for that class was 3.30 (though the Class of 2001 has produced a distinguished group of lawyers who have enjoyed great professional success)!

In addition to their academic promise, our new students have already demonstrated tremendous potential for leadership. Several of our new J.D. students are officers in either the United States Army or the United States Navy. A large number competed as varsity athletes in college - in 15 different sports - and some served as captain of their teams. Many were leaders in their undergraduate student government organizations.  Five members of the Class of 2014 served in Teach for America. Many worked in politics before coming to law school. One new law student, a recent graduate of the College of William & Mary, is an elected member of the Williamsburg City Council. Some have started their own businesses. 

Our new class has rich international experience.  Almost a third of the class has studied overseas, and six students have worked abroad for at least a year.

Virginia is, of course, the most prominent state of origin for our new J.D. students, but members of the class have arrived in Williamsburg from all over the United States - reflecting the strong national reputation that we enjoy. The most popular "feeder" schools for our entering class were, as usual, the College of William & Mary and the University of Virginia. But at least two of our new law students have graduated from 37 different colleges and universities, including Brown, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, University of Michigan, University of North Carolina, Notre Dame, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale.

Our new first-year law students are joined by 28 foreign lawyers who have come to Marshall-Wythe to earn a one-year Masters Degree in the American Legal System. These foreign lawyers have arrived from all over the world, including China, Ethiopia, France, India, Malaysia, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.  They greatly enrich the learning experience for our J.D. students.

Once here, our students do outstanding work - both inside and outside the classroom. Last year, our moot-court team won 6 tournaments - the most in the law school's history - and was recently ranked the 14th best moot-court team in the nation. One of our moot-court teams won a national moot-court competition that focused on international criminal law; that team advanced to a worldwide competition in The Hague on the same topic where they competed against moot-court teams from around the globe. Our trial team had another outstanding year, winning several tournaments.

The William and Mary Law Review remains one of the nation's elite law reviews; it is currently the 20th most cited law review by courts and legal scholars in the nation. The Law Review is thriving this year under the leadership of Editor-in-Chief Jeff Bozman, a native of Tidewater Virginia, a 2005 honors graduate of Princeton, and a Marine Corps officer who served two tours in the Middle East before matriculating at our law school.

Our four other law reviews - the William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, the William & Mary Business Law Review, the William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review, and the William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law - are (with the exception of the brand-new Business Law Review) among the most cited law reviews in their specialties.

The legal job market remains an ongoing concern for all of us. Each one of you knows that these are tough times for new law graduates.   Fortunately for us, although our employment numbers are down, they remain very good compared to most other law schools. And this past year, we enjoyed one of the highest bar passage rates in our history, including the best passage rate on the Virginia Bar exam of any Virginia law school.  But our students need your help. I hope that you or your employer will look carefully at our outstanding students.


We continue to enjoy an extraordinarily distinguished faculty with a strong commitment to teaching and scholarship.  In the past two years, our faculty has published more articles in the nation's most elite law reviews and more books with the nation's leading university presses than ever before.  For example, our new Vice Dean, Professor Nancy Combs, recently published a landmark book, Factfinding Without Facts: The Uncertain Evidentiary Foundations of International Criminal Convictions (Cambridge University Press 2010), based on an exhaustive examination of the work of special international criminal tribunals. Her book has created quite a sensation - particularly in Europe - and was the subject of a special panel at the recent annual meeting of the American Society of International Law.

Six members of our faculty received special campus-wide recognition during the past year for their excellence as teachers and scholars:  Professors Peter Alces, Jayne Barnard, Michael Steven Green, Susan Grover, Laura Heymann, and Tim Zick.

Professor Tara Grove has joined our faculty this fall from Florida State University Law School as an Assistant Professor. Professor Grove has already established a track record as an extraordinary teacher and scholar of federal jurisdiction. In her first few years as a law professor, she has published articles in the Columbia Law Review, the Cornell Law Review, and the Harvard Law Review - an astonishing record for a junior faculty member.

One of the Law School's most exciting ventures this year will be our 8th Annual Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference which will be held at Tsinghua University Law School in Bejing, China, October 13-15, 2011.  The conference will bring together the leading property rights scholars and practitioners from the United States and China to compare the way in which the two nations with the largest economies in the world protect property rights. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor will deliver the keynote address. This conference is being organized by Professor Lynda Butler, who serves as the Director of our annual Property Rights Conference. Joe Waldo, member of the Law School Class of 1978 and a leading property rights lawyer in Norfolk, has been an inspiring leader in both the conceptualization of this conference and in raising the necessary funds to support it.

We are also launching this year our new Dunn Civil Liberties Project, a program designed to encourage both law students and undergraduate students to take a greater interest in civil liberties issues in the United States. The Project has been generously funded by Tim Dunn and Ellen Stofan, both graduates of the College, in honor of the work of Tim's father, H. Stewart Dunn.

Financial Matters

The Commonwealth of Virginia continues to cut our state support. We will lose another $256,000 in state support this year, continuing a trend that has continued for the past several years.

This cut in state support has compelled the Law School to rely more heavily on private giving. Despite the nation's economic difficulties, our alumni and friends have responded with great enthusiasm.  Our 2011 Annual Fund campaign, which ended on June 30, raised $1.55 million - our highest total ever, and a 12% increase over last year's record total of $1.38 million.

Our total private giving last year (including gifts to our endowment and building fund) was $3.34 million. This was also the largest fundraising total in the Law School's history, and a 29% increase over last year's total of $2.59 million.

This level of private support is extremely encouraging, particularly in an economic environment in which many institutions of higher education - including law schools - saw a decline in private giving during the past year.

I am also grateful for the high percentage of our alumni that contributes to the Law School each year. According to the most recent data, the Law School has the 11th best alumni percentage giving rate of all law schools, which is quite impressive given that there are almost 200 law schools in the United States.

I have been at the Law School for more than 20 years, and have served as Dean for the past two years. I can say with confidence that the Law School, thanks to the tremendous leadership of Deans Bill Spong, Tim Sullivan, and Taylor Reveley, is now in the strongest position in its history (or at least since the days when George Wythe taught many of our nation's founders in the eighteenth century)! For what it is worth, we improved in the  U.S. News & World Report rankings this year, matching our previous high mark of #27.

Our best days lie ahead of us. I hope your travel plans will bring you to Williamsburg in the coming year. I look forward to the opportunity to update you on our progress in person.   

Sincerely yours,
Davison M. Douglas
Dean and Hanson Professor of Law

Click here to return to the E-News.