A Conversation with Interim Dean Nell Jessup Newton

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Dean Newton

Interim Dean Nell Jessup Newton

The following is a conversation that took place between Interim Dean Nell Jessup Newton and 3L student Hayley Goodman who is an intern in Miami Law’s Office of Law Development and Alumni Relations.

Hayley Goodman: What do you view as Miami Law’s strengths?

Dean Nell Jessup Newton: Of course, talented students come at the top of my list. I have been very impressed with the students at Miami Law. The faculty is also great. They care about their teaching and their students. The School of Law has great clinics, and the school has ramped up and emphasized experiential learning and technology.

Further, Miami Law has a great presence not only in Miami and South Florida but also nationally. Many schools do not hold such recognition across the country. There are many Miami Law graduates in New York and Washington, D.C. Actually, there are a fair number of Notre Dame undergraduate students turned Miami Law students and vice versa. The school and its alumni are truly respected nationally.

HG: What are your goals during your time as interim dean?

NN: First is to get Miami Law a great permanent dean. As the interim dean, you cannot treat it like you would a permanent deanship and try to do some very ambitious things during your first few years because you are there only for a year. However, you cannot say that you’re not going to do anything and just wait out the year. That would not be fun, and the school deserves much more than that. I am trying to identify areas that I can use my experience as a law school dean to add value and work on goals that can be completed or nearly completed within a year.

HG: Which areas do you have in mind?

NN: I really want to take a look at career development. We’re going to be hiring someone to lead the Career Development Office. I have done that before and care about career services. I think I could add some serious value in terms of hiring, as I have a good idea of what it takes to run a good career development office.

Also, I want to explore the bar pass initiative. The law school has hired excellent people in this area, and I think that I can further develop this initiative. Even though the Florida Bar Exam is difficult, most students should and can pass the bar exam on their first try. It can be done, especially if students really study for it — and study smart. I want to search for ways for the law school to help students to pass the bar exam, particularly those students with financial, emotional, or family problems that are keeping them from being able to optimally study.

Of course, I am also looking for other opportunities to learn about the school and add value. For example, I am exploring the relationship with the central university, which is not something that students normally notice but is important. I am always asking everyone how I can help, if there are people I can mentor, and if there are ways to reconnect with alumni who might have lost touch with the U.

HG: That’s great. I think that bar passage and career development are especially important to us current students, particularly during these times of covid. Can you speak to any initiatives that are in the works for the 2021-2022 academic year?

NN: As the interim dean, I do not want to start any new, major initiatives. That’s not the place of an interim dean and would be more fitting for the new dean who comes in next year. However, I do want to find areas where I can be helpful. I know that Miami Law has great alumni. I want to meet and talk to the alumni about the school and their careers. Miami Law has a strong alumni network. Our graduates are proud and rightfully so.

HG: Do you have any advice for recent graduates who are struggling to find their footing in the legal field during the age of the coronavirus?

NN: I was a law school dean during the Great Recession, and it was painful for our students because before the recession, they were guaranteed jobs and that was not the case when the recession hit. That’s why the Career Development Office is so important. It teaches students how they themselves can go out and get their own jobs. Something that I emphasize, and I am sure the Career Development Office encourages is networking, which does require you to be fearless and ask for that phone call. Lawyers are big on one-on-one interactions and getting to know people. Ask for advice, not a job. This often leads to opportunities. It works! It can be hard to project yourself with confidence, and that is a learned skill. Every once in a while, people will decline your request to chat, or they will be mean to you. However, most people are happy to meet with you and help.

HG: Finally, what are you most looking forward to during your year at Miami Law or more generally, in Miami?

NN: I love problem-solving. I am looking forward to meeting new people, learning more about Miami, the law school, and the university. In terms of the greater community, Miami has some really good food that we do not have in South Bend, Indiana. I am looking forward to exploring and experiencing the international culture in this great city!

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