When Alfred C. Aman, Jr., became the ninth dean of Suffolk University Law School this past July, his hands-on leadership approach was immediately apparent from the fact that he could rarely be found behind his desk. "Part of what I enjoy about 'deaning' is the collegiality that comes with the position," explains Dean Aman from his fourth-floor Sargent Hall office overlooking the Back Bay skyline. "I'm someone who walks around the building as a way of staying connected to faculty, staff, and student colleagues." An internationally renowned scholar, Dean Aman brings to Suffolk Law not only a genial manner, but also a breadth of experience and knowledge as well as a deep commitment to the institution's values and principles. He served as law school dean at Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington from 1991 to 2002, where he was also the Roscoe C. O'Byrne Professor of Law. A member of the Cornell Law School faculty from 1977 to 1991, Dean Aman has held a Distinguished Fulbright Chair in Trento, Italy, and visiting professorships in England, France, and Italy. He earned an AB with distinction in political science from the University of Rochester and a JD from the University of Chicago Law School. An expert in administrative law and globalization, Dean Aman is the author of five books, the most recent of which is The Democracy Deficit: Taming Globalization Through Law Reform. Richard Scheff, JD '81, president of the Suffolk Law School Alumni Board of Directors, sat down with Dean Aman to discuss his initial impressions of the Suffolk Law student body, his desire to further the law school's legacy of providing access to excellence, and his perspective on the unique benefits of studying in the "legal laboratory" of Boston.
S C H E F F Fred, I want to officially welcome you to Suffolk University Law School on behalf of the Alumni Association. How do you feel?
D E A N A M A N I feel terrific! I'm enjoying getting to know the law school and university community- and Boston as well. My wife, Carol, and I are both from the Northeast, and we're thrilled to be making Boston our home.
S C H E F F What was it that drew you to Suffolk University and to the position of dean of the law school?
D E A N A M A N I was drawn to Suffolk Law by its commitment to access and excellence-a history I was well aware of before I visited the first time-and by the people I met here. I strongly identify with Suffolk Law's distinctive mission and have long admired its history of opening doors to the legal profession for generations of students, regardless of their economic and cultural backgrounds. I also feel a strong sense of kinship with the others I have had a chance to meet, in the sense that we share a deep belief in institutions-especially educational institutions-and their power to change lives in positive ways. In my 11 years as dean at Indiana University School of Law, I thoroughly enjoyed the challenges of administration in terms of preparing legal professionals for the challenges they will face in the course of their careers. Like Indiana, Suffolk Law has a strong public mission that is integral to its educational mission. Suffolk Law clearly plays a leading role in legal education today by virtue of its extraordinary faculty and curriculum, its location in one of the world's most dynamic cities, and its dedication to public service and the public interest. It is an exciting time to be at Suffolk Law School, and I am honored to be its dean.
S C H E F F What are your initial goals for the first 6 to 12 months of your tenure?
D E A N A M A N Clearly, there's a lot of learning that has to continue on my part as I come to know Suffolk Law more fully and the goals and accomplishments that have made it the special place it is today. Within the law school, I am already beginning to meet faculty, staff, and students to learn more about their hopes, goals, and priorities for the school. Beyond the law school, I hope soon to begin meeting more of the 21,000 Suffolk Law alumni and alumnae to convey what's new and exciting at the law school, to learn more about how their own legal careers have developed since law school, and-on a more personal note-to share my own enthusiasm for Suffolk Law's leadership in legal education and the legal profession.
S C H E F F Is there anything in particular that excites you most about an opportunity here at Suffolk Law that perhaps did not present itself at Indiana?
D E A N A M A N The major difference is Suffolk Law's position in a large urban center that is also a state capital. Boston is an incredible legal laboratory for students and faculty alike, in terms of the scale of the legal community, the range of legal issues, and the diversity of public and private institutions in this city. You walk out the door and there's the State House. Students cannot help but take away a message about law's role in public policy and, more broadly, in society. Boston is also an international city, and whether or not students participate in one of our international programs, they cannot help but be aware of the global reach of law, even when it is practiced locally. Boston's diversity is also a tremendous asset for Suffolk Law School.
S C H E F F How does someone like you, who had never seen Suffolk Law until the hiring process, go about acquainting yourself with the way of life here, the faculty, the students, and the administration?
D E A N A M A N I am very much looking forward to getting acquainted! Everyone has been very welcoming and generous with information. [Former Dean] Bob Smith has been especially helpful, and I'm very grateful for the time and care he gave to the transition process. Going forward, based on what I've experienced these last few weeks, I think I'll do my best learning by listening. Part of what I enjoy about "deaning" is the collegiality that comes with the position. I'm someone who walks around the building a lot as a way of staying connected to faculty, staff, and student colleagues. Sometimes it's to learn more about what issues they're grappling with, and how as an administrator I can help them in their institutional roles-but just as often it's just to say hello, to shed the institutional role for a few minutes. I hope folks will get used to seeing me around the building-and won't hesitate to tell me if they're too busy to visit. With respect to students, I plan to teach a seminar or course in the spring, and I hope this will give me a chance to learn more firsthand about students' experiences and perspectives.
S C H E F F Speaking of the building itself, what are your impressions of the facility and what it has to offer to the university as a whole, and to the students and faculty in particular?
D E A N A M A N I've been inside a lot of law schools, and I've never seen a facility as fine as this one. The public spaces are spectacular. The classrooms are state-of-the-art-not just with their excellent technology, but also in terms of how they enable students to engage each other. It's a very, very thoughtfully designed building, and very human in its design. The library is wonderful, and readily accessible at the building's core. The cafeteria and other gathering places are also centrally placed-convenient, of course, but also symbolic of the school's community. The function room plays an integral role within the university and the local community, and this, too, is invaluable. From another perspective, I think the building is impressive as public architecture. No matter what courthouse or other major institution they encounter in their professional lives, every Suffolk Law graduate can feel completely at home, just from having walked into Sargent Hall on a daily basis.
S C H E F F You mentioned the student body. In the short time that you've been here, have you formed an impression of the student body or the typical student here at Suffolk Law?
D E A N A M A N I don't know if there is such a thing as a typical student. And yet one senses that there is a real Suffolk Law student culture. From my meetings with students so far, I have a strong impression that there's a lot of enthusiasm and optimism, very high motivation, and strong academic engagement. Many of our students are working to make their way through school, and they are making sacrifices to be here. There's strong discipline and drive. The students I've met are eager to take advantage of the opportunities that are here at the school, and to learn as much as they can about what their careers will demand of them. Beyond the student culture, I'm also impressed with the faculty culture that has made teaching such a high priority. The collective commitment to preparing students for successful legal careers-wherever they might choose to devote themselves professionally-is part of what distinguishes Suffolk Law.
S C H E F F I gather that one of the things important to you is providing scholarships to students. And naturally, if we are to do that, there has to be significant fundraising. Can you share some of your thoughts on where we need to be?
D E A N A M A N Fundraising for scholarships is increasingly important at all law schools, given the rising costs of education and-as is especially the case in Boston-the rising cost of living, including the cost of credit. Law schools everywhere are increasingly focused on scholarship aid, and-beyond the economics of daily life-this is due to the fact that all of the nation's 190 or so law schools are competing for essentially the same students. It may be surprising, but all law school student recruitment is essentially national these days. Scholarships are crucial to maintaining any school's ability to recruit and retain the student body in the best position to benefit from their own school's programs and resources. I think of scholarships as going hand in glove with our outreach to prospective students as to why they should prefer Suffolk Law in this highly competitive environment. Suffolk Law School is highly distinctive in its commitment to public service and the public interest. Increased scholarship aid would allow us to offer loan repayments to students interested in public service or public interest careers, which tend to offer lower salaries compared to other areas of practice. This is just one example of how scholarships can be an investment in both individuals and the collective mission of the school at one and the same time.
S C H E F F How do we get there?
D E A N A M A N The university's capital campaign has announced increased scholarship aid as among its goals, and I am very much looking forward to working with the campaign as we reach out to law alumni on behalf of their successors at the law school.
S C H E F F So many things change in our lives. People have children and other commitments, and as you noted, things are expensive across the board. How do we convince alumni that giving to Suffolk Law should be a priority as opposed to an afterthought?
D E A N A M A N Well, this is a deeply personal decision that people inevitably make on their own. I think the best we can do is to convey fully the value of their gift as an investment in the university, in the law school, and in the future of the legal profession. When people think about what their own legal education meant to them, when they think about their own professional success, maybe they'll remember their own dreams and motivations as young law students and take some fresh satisfaction in their own successes. Perhaps many can say, with pride, "But for Suffolk Law, I wouldn't have had this chance." I think it's natural to want to give back to the institution so that future students can have this same opportunity, but, as I say, this is a very personal decision. In addition to individual outreach, we can keep the connections open with alums to let them know what's going on in the school today. Sargent Hall was built in 1999. Well, thousands of graduates have never been through this building. So how do we tell them about what the school has become, how it's changed, and how proud they should feel of it? I'm sure many alums know how valuable their degree has been to them personally, but perhaps they would like to know how the value of their degree continues to rise, given the compelling growth of the university and the law school since their own student days.
S C H E F F To connect the alumni with the school, will you personally go out and conduct outreach? And, if so, how much of your time do you expect to devote to that?
D E A N A M A N I am happy to devote a substantial amount of time to it. I expect to learn a great deal about the school in meeting alumni, as I've said, and I am eager to play a role in linking them to the Suffolk Law School of today. Communication with alums goes both ways, and, of course, alumni are a great asset to the school quite apart from monetary gifts. Alums can be of enormous help to us in recruiting the student body for which Suffolk Law is justly famous. Law is a dynamic field, and alums can help students and faculty alike keep abreast of the challenges and opportunities of modern law practice. We have a great concentration of Suffolk Law grads in Boston, but we also have a terrific distribution nationally. Alumni can be of great help to students as they seek positions, and to new graduates as they begin their careers. By the way, I feel Suffolk Law deserves to be as well recognized nationally as it already is locally and in New England; our alums are a crucial part of that process, given their prominence in the bar and bench.
S C H E F F Speaking of reputation, what is your philosophy regarding school rankings? Are law school rankings something that are important to you, and if so, in what ways?
D E A N A M A N As you know, there is a lot of debate among legal academics about the U.S.News & World Report rankings-these are the ones everyone watches-pretty sharply divided pro and con. My philosophy is essentially bipartisan. I'm for them when they support our efforts to do things that any good law school would be doing whether or not that magazine article came out every year. For example, every law school wants to be able to recruit a student body that can benefit from its program, to help students not only gain access to law school, but also to succeed there-and similarly, not only to pass the bar, but also to succeed professionally as lawyers. Every law school wants a strong, diverse student body, as well as excellent and diverse faculty widely recognized for their teaching and scholarship. These are elements of the rankings, and I see them as a rough measure of our comparative strengths-but not as a motivation for priorities or programs. As I say, these are things that every law school-Suffolk Law included- already values. Rankings in and of themselves do not necessarily detract from the core goals you would have as an educator. But once they begin to detract or distract from those core goals, that's when I'm against them. In any case, even at best, the published rankings are not the measure we're really seeking. The real rankings are the accomplishments and the success of our alums-10, 20, 30 years out of law school. If somebody says, "How is Suffolk Law doing in the rankings?," I say, "Just take a look at what our graduates are doing now. Take a look at how many Suffolk Law graduates are serving as judges, prosecutors, public defenders, as partners and associates in excellent law firms-large, small, and solo- as counsel in companies and foundations, and as public servants in their communities. Turn that lens onto the nation's law schools, and Suffolk Law is very high in the rankings." Philosophically, I think we have to realize that the Suffolk Law experience changes people's lives, and it allows them to change other people's lives. This school has such a rich history and such a great story to tell, and that's what makes it extraordinary. It's going higher in those rankings that I really care about. The published rankings will follow wherever Suffolk Law leads.
S C H E F F There are so many great law schools in Boston: Harvard, Boston University, Boston College, and Northeastern, in addition to Suffolk Law. How do we compete in this arena?
D E A N A M A N We compete by articulating the mission of the law school in a way that allows people to think past the numbered rankings. We compete by responding fully when prospective students ask, "What's special about this school?" As I've just mentioned, what's special about this school is what people have done with their degrees, and how Suffolk Law has prepared them for their successes by emphasizing legal professionalism as public service. Clearly, Suffolk Law's role in this community is another distinctive aspect of the school, especially in terms of the unique strength of the law school's clinics and outreach programs. Those elements give us a very high profile as a high-powered, public-oriented school with a very broad, human mission. Suffolk Law faculty take their teaching extremely seriously, and this, too, makes even a large school like Suffolk Law feel small, in the best sense. Students leave Suffolk Law with a large network of cohorts, as well as the support of faculty deeply engaged with the law in both practical and theoretical terms. I would encourage any student interested in a personalized learning environment, strong professionalization, and opportunities in the widest possible range of law careers to consider all of Boston's fine schools-and then choose Suffolk Law!
S C H E F F Let's turn to the faculty and some of the programs offered at Suffolk Law. Do you have specific goals in hiring?
D E A N A M A N I am very impressed by the faculty's strength and versatility, its dedication to Suffolk Law and its students. I'm impressed, too, by their range-a really stimulating blend of theory and practice, terrific clinical programs, and a strong skills curriculum. It's clear to me that the law school has hired very well. Going forward as dean, I am as concerned with retention as I am with recruitment. When it comes to faculty recruitment, Suffolk Law, like most law schools, aims for a diverse faculty, outstanding in their specialties and with the intellectual and professional range that allows them to contribute significantly to the law school as a whole.
S C H E F F I know that you've spent a fair amount of time overseas teaching, and Suffolk Law obviously reaches overseas in a number of ways. Is that something you want to see expand here?
D E A N A M A N Suffolk Law has several strong international programs, as well as a flourishing LLM program. We're committed to maintaining these programs, and perhaps to expanding them. When students walk into Suffolk Law School, they are walking into the world. Having students from other countries come and spend a year taking our LLM degree, for example, is not only a great opportunity for them to learn about the American legal system, but it's also a tremendous opportunity for our students to come into contact with other legal systems facing other challenges and opportunities. Even for students whose goals are to set up law practice in their own home towns, this sort of exposure is a great asset-intellectually and in practical terms. The world is so much more interconnected than it was a generation ago, and adding the international dimension to the lives of Suffolk Law students is invaluable.
S C H E F F Tell us a little bit about your own research issues, where you are today in terms of some of your focus, and where you see yourself heading in the future.
D E A N A M A N My research interests as an academic were strongly shaped by my early experiences as a law clerk and in law practice. After law school, I clerked for Judge Elbert Tuttle, then senior judge of the old Fifth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, in the early 1970s, when the courts were working out the implications of the then-new civil rights landmark cases and legislation. From that experience, I came away tremendously impressed both by the power of law as a force for change, and by the creative imagination of the lawyers, legislators, and judges who made the law a social reality. In practice, I worked primarily in the area of energy law, and from that milieu became broadly interested in administrative law as the interface between states, markets, and citizens. In that context, too, I was fascinated by questions of interpretation-especially in areas such as utilities and public services, where ordinary people were likely to be deeply affected by administrative outcomes. These were the issues that motivated me to enter teaching and also provided me with the themes of my early books and articles. By the time I started teaching, the "Reagan Revolution" was in full swing. I became interested in the local impact of so-called globalization, and, conversely, in the ways globalization is driven domestically. My most recent book was on democracy deficit issues and the potential for reinvigorating local democracy through administrative law. I'm currently working on an idea that began as just an example in that book, on the conditions of government contracts with private service providers to vulnerable communities such as in the prison health context. I find that an active research program helps me integrate my teaching and service commitments, and also gives me a chance to hold onto my perspective as a member of the faculty. That's important to me, since I think of a deanship as a collegial role. That's what makes it so interesting
ALUMNI PROFILESLance D. Clarke