Almost single handedly, President Trump has made lawyers the breakout stars in the early days of his new administration.
Legal experts in immigration and refugee law, international trade, religious freedom, and the constitutional powers of the executive branch have, seemingly overnight, become regular guests on network and cable news, quoted on front pages of national newspapers, and gained thousands of followers on social media.
Law schools can seize this moment and, like the generation inspired by Woodward and Bernstein to pursue careers in journalism, lead the renaissance in legal education that would revive a profession in need of an injection of youth, idealism, and high-tech savvy.
Lawyers are playing a central role in this grand national civics class that we have been called to attend. With in-depth legal knowledge and an encyclopedic sense of history, these men and women — judges, law practitioners, scholars, and law students — have raised our collective consciousness (with the
help of musical theater’s Alexander Hamilton) about the important role lawyers and the law have played in the founding of our nation and the ongoing stability of our system conferred by the adherence to the rule of law.
The armies of lawyers and law students that descended on major airports across the country in the wake of the president’s executive order banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, as lawyers from the ACLU prepared their case to stay the ban in federal court, inspired a sense of pride in the profession not experienced in years.
Many of our students and faculty members were standing outside the United States courthouse in downtown Brooklyn in the cold January night cheering with thousands of others as the lawyers bounded down the stairs with the court-ordered stay in their hands.
Now, the new round of immigration enforcement across the country, designed to deport undocumented immigrants but affecting some legal residents as well, will further test the laws of our nation and again put lawyers center stage in what is sure to be a robust national debate.
Just when our nation needs more, not fewer good public spirited lawyers, the deteriorating image of the lawyer – often a butt of jokes or derision until you need one – has unfortunately helped to dissuade many of our nation’s most talented and promising young people to pursue other professional endeavors.
Since the 2008 financial crisis, law schools have taken a hit in applications, and the numbers of students choosing to study law decreased dramatically. But at Brooklyn Law School last year we started to see a significant uptick in applications — an increase of more than 12 percent over the previous year — and we are on pace to exceed that this year.
Some of this increased interest can be attributed to an improving economy but another compelling factor is the intense interest among many Millennials in issues of social justice and the urge to make a positive difference.
They are a keenly entrepreneurial generation, and the law and well-trained lawyers are central to success of new ventures.
Certainly, over the last few weeks, there has been an awakening of appreciation for what lawyers do, not only to safeguard our business and personal interests, but to protect the rights of Americans and of those who wish to come to our country to escape war and tyranny and build a better life.
While recent events, in and of themselves, cannot be expected to entirely change perceptions of lawyers and our nation’s legal enterprise for the better, they do offer a remarkable platform upon which law schools can demonstrate their relevance in a global, high-tech world and, once again, become a highly desirable profession for the best and the brightest of the next generation.
We have lost sight of how critically relevant lawyers are to the social order that is the bedrock of our growth and prosperity.
There has been precious little understanding of and appreciation for the foundational laws of our land and the role lawyers play in bringing to fruition all the benefits of our constitutional guarantees that are at the core of our democratic way of life.
Law schools must seize this opportunity to trumpet the good news that, just as lawyers were instrumental in our nation’s beginnings, they are absolutely essential today to the defense of our rights, the pursuit of justice, and the preservation of our Republic.
Not a bad day at the office.
Nicholas W. Allard is the president and Joseph Crea Dean and Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School.
The views of contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.