Thursday, April 8, 2021

This past year has been a difficult one. Yet despite many challenges and changes, the Iowa Law community has persisted and succeeded. While it wasn’t the year we expected, we are proud that our important mission continued, and we are grateful for everyone who helped the College of Law remain strong through this difficult time.  

Here are some highlights from the 2020-2021 academic year: 

Recruiting an elite class of new faculty 

The 2020 – 2021 school year began last fall with an impressive class of eight new faculty members from across the country.  

Professors César Rosado Marzán, Derek Muller, and Chris Odinet joined us as full-time, tenured faculty members. Larisa Bowman joined our faculty as a Visiting Associate Professor of Law.  

Effective legal writing is a fundamental skill, and the College of Law invested heavily in furthering the law school’s reputation for producing strong legal writers by adding two full-time Legal Analysis, Writing, and Research professors—Andrew Crouse and Mary Ksobiech. We were also joined by a new Law Library Director and Professor of Instruction—Carissa Vogel.  

Iowa Law reinstated the Faculty Fellowship program this year with the hire of Phoebe Jean-Pierre. The two-year fellowship is designed to promote research and mentorship, and support increased diversity in higher education.  

Welcoming the most diverse class of law students in our history 

In addition to supporting diversity at the faculty level, the College of Law also saw success in recruiting a more diverse student body.  

The 2020 incoming class was the most diverse class in the 155-year history of Iowa Law. The Class of 2023 consists of 167 students, 53% of whom are women and 24.6% are people of color. The students come from 29 different states and 3 foreign countries, and received degrees in 45 different majors from 85 different undergraduate institutions. Moreover, the members of this slightly larger entering class were equal in quality to the previous year’s class, by median LSAT score and undergraduate GPA.  

“This extraordinary class represents high academic achievement and talent as well as an impressive array of work experience. Iowa Law is a top public law school, and these students will make our school even stronger,” said Dean Kevin K. Washburn.  

Making an impact during the pandemic  

COVID-19 did not stop Iowa Law students from making a real impact in the world this year.  

Students in Professor Lea Vandervelde’s Employment Law course completed cutting-edge research into how the pandemic is impacting work laws. Each student wrote a report about an employment law topic describing  how it was affected by the pandemic. This project allowed students to track changes in real time, a method that prepared them well for the field of employment law and the anticipated changes to come. 

Together, the students produced a 90-page white paper on employment law—assessing where it stands in the middle of the pandemic and how it may change in the future.  

Students working in the Federal Criminal Defense Clinic, supervised by Professor Alison Guernsey, have sought compassionate release for incarcerated persons who are at risk of infection or death as a result of the pandemic. They have been collecting and graphing the daily infection rate at the Bureau of Prisons to identify the most dangerous BOP facilities, as measured by total COVID-19 cases.

They have also gained experience directly representing clients eligible for compassionate release during this time—watch the story of Daniel Brown.   

Advancing DEI initiatives with action 

Increasing diversity, equity and inclusion in the legal profession has been a longstanding commitment at Iowa Law. This year, we took steps to advance our DEI Initiatives in the following ways:  

The Iowa Law Anti-Racism Action Committee (ILARAC) was created in response to the events surrounding the death of George Floyd in May 2020. ILARAC met weekly last summer to provide recommendations to help Iowa Law meet this important historical moment. The committee consisted of students, faculty, and staff who recognized that the impacts of racism are felt differently by all members of the law school. The report details recommendations in the following areas: funding, leadership, recruitment, curriculum, training, climate reform, placement, and evaluation.  

In 2020, Neda Barrett, our first Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Global Engagement was hired full-time. Barrett has served Iowa Law as our Senior Human Resources fellow since April 2019 during which time she actively participated in the College of Law’s DEI Committee, strategic planning group, and this past summer was a member of the Iowa Law Anti-Racism Action Committee. Her new position will support the College of Law in progress on diversity, equity, and inclusion within the Boyd Law Building and beyond.  

Reinstating Iowa Law’s Faculty Fellowship program was another priority this year. The Faculty Fellowship position combines law teaching with scholarly research and writing, especially research with an interdisciplinary focus, and helps develop a more diverse campus community of faculty, staff, and students. 

Last July, a steering committee of alumni, students, and staff was formed to explore next steps for launching an Alumni DEI Council. The inaugural council has been formed and plans to meet in the coming months. The focus of their work will be recruiting and mentorship. We are grateful for this alumni leadership and will share more details in a future Alumni Newsletter. 

The UI Center for Human Rights (UICHR), directed by Associate Dean for International and Comparative Law Programs and the Bessie Dutton Murray Professor at Iowa Law, Adrien Wing, developed extensive programming during the pandemic. The programing addressed racial equity and human rights; especially human rights issues related to the pandemic. The virtual events have drawn over 5,000 attendees from people across the globe.  

UICHR has played a significant role in Iowa Law’s human rights engagement and has helped establish Iowa Law’s human rights program as a standout in a competitive and changing world. This year, the program earned an A+ rating from preLaw Magazine, a National Jurist Publication.  

Providing experiences that foster student success 

Even in the midst of COVID-19, Iowa Law students gained wonderful opportunities to learn. 

One of Iowa Law’s most cherished traditions went virtual in 2020. Every year since 1928, select Iowa Law students have argued in front of Iowa Supreme Court Justices. The 92nd annual Iowa Supreme Court Day was a bit different than in years past, but it was equally memorable. The Justices’ questioning was just as rigorous as ever, and the student advocates held up well.  

Our student-run journals at Iowa Law continue to be excellent. The Iowa Law Review is ranked 12th out of over 400 legal journals for scholarly impact. The Journal of Corporation Law is ranked #2 in its subject matter and the Journal on Gender Race and Justice is ranked in the top 5 for two subject matter areas (#5 in the Gender category and #3 in Race). Student editors gain valuable research and writing skills on journals that help them in the workplace, such as in judicial clerkships.  

Iowa Law continued to see clerkship success for the Class of 2020, as graduates filled 25 clerkships (17 in state courts and 8 in federal courts). Our longstanding Clerkship Committee is dedicated to highlighting the benefits of clerking and encourages Iowa Law students to seek state, federal and even tribal clerkships. Law clerks further hone their legal research and writing skills under the direct supervision of a judge. 

Dean Kevin Washburn shares, "While we are proud of how we managed legal education in the time of COVID, we look forward to entering a time when COVID is better controlled. We have missed the in-person collegiality, lively debates, and social engagements our community enjoys so much."