Dean's Message

Dean's Message November 2020

portrait of Dean Barbara Glesner Fines

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, this holiday devoted to gathering and gratitude will look very different for some of us. As we weigh the risks of gathering in the midst of a pandemic and forgo or limit some gathering, it can be easy to forgo the gratitude part of this holiday as well. Never has gratitude been more important, so let me take this opportunity then to say thank you to you all.

Thank you for the work you do each day. The excellence and professionalism you bring to your work raises the reputation of your alma mater right along with your own.

Thank you for helping to educate our students: as adjunct professors, guest lecturers in classes and on program panels, and graders in our bar preparation program. It hasn't been easy. We've had to learn how to connect to students across new technologies, or through physically distanced and masked classrooms. We are all grateful for your commitment to the future of our profession and our community.

Thank you for helping our students to transition into their professional career by providing mentorship and opportunities to these students as clerks, interns in our field placement program, post-graduate Truman Fellows, or new attorneys in your office. Your gift reaches far beyond the students you guide to build a legal community with an uncommon degree of civility and generosity.

Thank you for providing financial support. Because of you, we have been able to sustain students who are facing layoffs of family members, home schooling of children, unreliable technology or connectivity, along with all the other financial and personal stress that law school ordinarily presents. Your donation is a much-needed expression of confidence and caring and a critical message of commitment to the School of Law.

UMKC School of Law could not continue to provide excellent, innovative and connected teaching, research, and service without your gifts. So while I may not have the opportunity to gather with you this Thanksgiving, please know that I am enormously grateful to you all.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Barb

Barbara Glesner Fines
Dean and Rubey M. Hulen Professor of Law

Message Archive

Dean's Message January 2020

Barbara Glesner Fines smiles while wearing Chiefs Superbowl t-shirt

Kansas City is abuzz with the Kanas City Chiefs advancing to the Super Bowl. UMKC Law Roos will be joining the rest of the community in rooting for our team. But did you know that the School of Law has an even deeper connection to the Chiefs than just being loyal fans? The last time that the Chiefs went to the Super Bowl was 1969. Among the players in that championship game was 21-year-old UMKC Law student Bob Stein, the youngest player ever to play in a Super Bowl. Bob was offered scholarships to Harvard, Michigan, and Stanford law schools after college, but chose to stay at UMKC and attended law school full time while also playing professional football. Today, Bob lives in Minneapolis and represents retired NFL players.

Bob is not the only UMKC alumnus who played for the Kansas City Chiefs. Chris Burford III (J.D. ’65) was a wide receiver for the Chiefs while also attending UMKC Law School. After graduating and leaving the Chiefs, Chris when on to practice law, representing the Pac-10 collegiate athletic conference. Thomas Condon, split his legal education between UMKC Law and the University of Baltimore while he played for the Chiefs between 1977 and 1981. Condon served as president of the NFL Players Association and went on to become one of the most highly respected sports agents in the industry.
Today, the School of Law’s connection to the Chiefs can be found in 3L student Hannah Bassham, who works as a TV and Radio announcer for Tico Sports, which provides the official Spanish language coverage of the Chiefs. Hannah provides commentary, sidelines reporting, and locker interviews.

Go Roo Lawyers! and Go Chiefs!

Peace,

Barbara Glesner Fines
Dean and Rubey M. Hulen Professor of Law

Dean's Message February 2020

Since its founding 125 years ago, UMKC has worked to provide affordable access to legal education for students without regard to gender, race, ethnicity or other societal barriers. Today, the entire law school community is continuing that mission. Your UMKC Law Alumni Association has formally adopted a Diverse Alumni Network Committee as part of its structure and I look forward to working with them in the year ahead. The law school’s faculty members have accomplished a great deal in research and teaching to advance diversity and inclusion. For example, Professors Mikah Thompson, David Achtenberg, and Mary Kay O’Malley all served as commissioners on the Missouri Supreme Court’s Commission on Racial and Ethnic Fairness. Professor Thompson’s research was instrumental in the Supreme Court’s adoption of a new Missouri Approved Instruction on implicit bias. To meet the new Missouri CLE requirement for cultural competence training, three of my faculty colleagues (Professors Irma Russell, Mikah Thompson, and Jamila Jefferson-Jones) and I are offering a webcast CLE program that addresses these issues. The webcasts will be offered March 2, April 6, May 4, June 1 and June 29th. Our students are taking the lead as well. On February 19th, in collaboration with the UMKC Black Law Students Association, UMKC CLE’s Film & the Law Series will feature When They See Us at the Screenland Armour Theatre. Free popcorn and up to 8 CLE credit hours! The student leaders of our diverse student organizations have come together as the Diverse Student Coalition and have planned an exciting new scholarship dinner event coming up in March. I love their theme: Diversity Brings Justice. These are just a few of the efforts of our entire community — alumni, faculty, staff, and students – living the UMKC School of Law’s values of respect for people, for knowledge and ideas, and for justice. Join us.


Peace,
Barbara Glesner Fines
Dean and Rubey M. Hulen Professor of Law

Dean's Message March 2020

Over 125 years UMKC School of Law has faced extraordinary events and challenges: war, depression, natural disasters, and more. Today we are in the midst of yet another extraordinary challenge. In these times of crisis, we must hold firm to our mission and our values and that is exactly what the UMKC School of Law community has done. There has been no panic. There has been a great deal of patience.

In one week’s time, the faculty and staff have pivoted to an online environment, but one in which we remain true to our mission of providing student-centered, community-engaged, and justice-driven education. We have continued our clinics and externships as much as possible and engaged with students in virtual classrooms and through emails and phone calls. Our continuing legal education department has shifted from in person events to develop and manage a host of webcasts. Students and faculty have taken the directive to slow the spread of COVID-19 through social distancing and meticulous disinfection but we have also done so while upholding our core values of respect for people, for knowledge and ideas, and for justice.

After 125 years, we’ve learned a thing or two about community. Now is the time to put that education to good use. I am grateful to our entire community during these challenging times. If the School of Law can help you or your firm in any way to weather the storm of this public health emergency, please let me know.

Peace,

Barbara Glesner Fines
Dean and Rubey M. Hulen Professor of Law

Dean's Message April 2020

Dear friends

Over the past few weeks, the UMKC School of Law has learned how to build and sustain our community from a distance.  Faculty and staff are finding new ways to engage our students in a virtual environment. We are fortunate to have a variety of tools for the tasks and the staff with expertise to help us use these tools.  Students are learning from video lectures, online discussion boards, zoom class meetings, social media platforms, and, yes, even old-fashioned email and phone calls.  We are all learning to keep our sense of balance and focus on the things that really matter.  For our third-year students, in particular, this has been an especially difficult challenge: they must manage the disappointment that commencement ceremonies and related graduation festivities will be postponed, along with the anxiety of waiting to learn how the pandemic will affect bar examinations and job prospects.  They are not alone of course.  All students are juggling their education and professional development with their need to manage geographic, familial, economic, and health disruptions.  To help students to maintain this balance and insure equity, the faculty voted to adjust our grading standards this semester to a mandatory Credit/No-credit grading system, while still providing students with formative feedback on their learning.   To help with their professional development and mental health, we have weekly tips on stress management and reminders that MOLAP continues to be available to them.  To help with financial pressures, we have created a “Student First” emergency fund and I am pleased to announce that Access Lex has provided a $25,000 grant to jump-start that fund.  

 In the days and weeks ahead, there will be even more challenges to our mission of providing student-centered, community-engaged, and justice-driven education.  Even after social isolation ends, I am confident that we will not simply go back to business as usual.  We have learned too much.  We have renewed appreciation for the critical role of place and community in education. We have also learned much about providing even more flexible, individualized education and professional development.  We have mastered new tools and revisited accepted wisdom.  Yet, some things will not change as we move through this crisis that has touched every aspect of our lives. We will continue to identify and solve problems in an uncertain world, and teach our students to do the same.

I hope that you are all safe and strong.  Please know that your alma mater is here for you.

Peace,

Barbara Glesner Fines
Dean and Rubey M. Hulen Professor of Law

Dean's Message May 2020

Like so much else in our life these days, the School of Law ended its semester with a series of virtual events.  Exams were all online and our faculty and staff moved mountains to master the technology to be able to provide fair and accessible exams for our students to wrap up their work.  A Zoom meeting was the site for us to congratulate our students who passed the February bar (at a rate for first-time takers that exceeded the state average by 9.5% and with the highest number of first-time takers (23) for this mid-year exam. Once again, the UMKC Bar Prep Program’s active participants passed at a greater percentage. Our graduating students celebrated with a virtual commencement event.  The online program featured advice from alumni, a wonderful speech by the graduate’s selection for Professor of the Year: Professor Judy Frame and reflections from our SBA President Greta Morina. I was pleased that the city pitched in to help with the celebration, lighting Union Station, the Nelson, and other city landmarks UMKC Blue for the event.  This week we will be celebrating our Pro Bono Honors graduates with a special Zoom event, featuring the award of the Houdek Pro Bono Award and the Jay Dillingham Award.  I am so proud of our students’ commitment to giving back to their community: this past academic year alone, 83 law students engaged in pro bono work at 32 different sites or agencies providing 8,499 hours of service to the community.  This week also sees a new beginning: our 2020 Summer Start class, one of the largest ever, begins their work.  All classes are being offered online and we will be learning a great deal together about how to build a community in a virtual environment. 

During the summer start orientation, I will give my “Eat your Vegetables” speech (I believe this may be the 28th anniversary of my starting law students off with a discussion of why law school education and socialization is stressful, how they might react to that stress, and how to best manage their health and wellness through the process. The difference this year is that I will be delivering these remarks in a Zoom meeting.  But if there was ever a time to pay attention to stress management and mental health and wellness, a pandemic is certainly the time.  I recently gathered some of these thoughts together in a piece for the Bar Plan https://www.thebarplan.com/practice-positive-emotions/ One of my suggestions there was to practice gratitude.  As the dean of a law school with an extraordinarily supportive, dedicated, and generous legal community, that is an easy practice for me.  Thank you to all of you for the many ways you have helped to sustain your alma mater, even from a distance.  I am grateful for your contributions to the Students First fund; your suggestions for grants and other opportunities to secure additional support; your offers of opportunities for meaningful experience for our students and graduates; your volunteering to help out in our clinics and programs; and your emails, calls and social media support on behalf of the School of Law.  We will get through this challenging time together and emerge even more student-centered, community-connected, and justice-driven.  Be well.

Peace,

Barbara Glesner Fines
Dean and Rubey M. Hulen Professor of Law

Dean's Message July 2020

These past months, we have been reminded more than ever of how critical our work as lawyers is to achieving equal justice under law. The pandemic has reminded us that we cannot take for granted our access to food, health care, and other basic resources; we suddenly have had cause to pay closer attention to who it is that provides these services, the conditions under which they work, and the legal structures that frame these economies. As deaths from the pandemic disproportionately strike our elders and our communities of color, we are challenged to look closely at the conditions in our society that make this so and the ways in which law might correct these disparities. As we strive to protect the public health, we challenge our assumptions about privacy and individual autonomy. As we see and hear the unequal impact of policing practices, defender system funding, and sentencing processes, we ask how we can address injustice in our criminal justice system. As we watch public discourse about these topics devolve into personal attacks, we ask how we can build space for discourse grounded in our law school’s values: respect for people, for knowledge and ideas, and for justice. Our faculty and staff have been working together this summer to design programs to help insure these spaces and encourage this discourse. Our faculty have been exploring these questions in their scholarship. Our courses bring faculty and students together to examine these questions and design answers.

We know that you all are also engaged as the lawyers and leaders of this community to answer the critical calls for justice all around us. Let us know about your work. Share your ideas for how .

Peace,

Barbara Glesner Fines
Dean and Rubey M. Hulen Professor of Law

Dean's Message August 2020

Six months into a pandemic, the UMKC School of Law faculty, staff, and students are more resilient, skilled, and resourceful than ever. Over the summer, we welcomed our summer-start students to the law school and their first semester was 100% online. This past week, we welcomed 97 fall-start students, who joined our 44 spring and summer-start students to make one of the largest incoming classes we have had in some years. Alumni leaders from across the nation welcomed them in a Zoom networking session during orientation.  The incoming credentials of these new students are impressive, with a median LSAT score of 153 and median undergrad GPA of 3.44.  The majority of students are women (54%).  Four percent are veterans, 22% are students of color and 33% are the first generation in their family to graduate from college.  That diversity is part of our strength and we have been working hard to share that message with the students and the larger community.  Thus far, nearly 1000 attorneys from across the state have completed our UMKC-CLE Elimination of Bias program featuring Professors Jamila Jefferson-Jones, Irma Russell, Mikah Thompson and myself.  

We are back in the building, with classes being taught in the courtroom and student lounge at 25% room capacity. Everyone, including Harry Truman, is wearing masks to protect our community.  Many of our classes remain online to give students choice and reduce congestion in the law building. The faculty have completed the campus Online Teaching Certification course and we have reworked courses that one might have thought impossible to take online, including skills courses, clinics and field placements.  I am proud of the way our faculty and staff have met the challenge of modifying our delivery of legal education and connection to our community. But the point of that job has not changed: with your help, we are continuing to educate tomorrow’s legal leaders.

As we wait and hope for a resolution of this pandemic, I wish you all health, connection, and

Peace,
Barb

Barbara Glesner Fines
Dean and Rubey M. Hulen Professor of Law

Dean's Message August 2020

It has been a month of great losses and gains.

The law school joined in mourning the loss of the Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg nationally and continue to share the sorrow of the members of our community who have lost family and friends. In a season of losses, we are reminded of the importance of purposeful work.

UMKC Law School's purposeful work is providing value and access to legal education. This past week we received some "report cards" on these efforts. Our Missouri bar results showed a first time pass rate of 85.1%. 100% of our graduates taking the Kansas and Oklahoma bar exam passed. We are celebrating these results with a swearing in ceremony this Friday in our Thompson Courtroom.

We had good news from Prelaw magazine as well. UMKC School of Law is listed as #7 on the list of schools that outperform their predictors on employment. Our family law program is one of only four schools to receive an A+ rating.

Providing value and access gives meaning in challenging times.

Peace,
Barb

Barbara Glesner Fines
Dean and Rubey M. Hulen Professor of Law

Dean's Message October 2020

This past month has seen some exciting new initiatives and partnerships develop at the School of Law.  First, we are pleased to announce the launch of our Truman Fellows program.  This program provides professional development opportunities for recent graduates in the midst of the COVID-19 recession while building on the law school’s strong commitment to public service. Our first cohort of Truman Fellows has been filled by three May 2020 graduates who are working in our clinics to provide assistance to businesses and individuals impacted by COVID 19.  The program has been launched with a $25,000 grant from the Kansas City Regional Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund.  Second, one of the Truman Fellows is working in the law school to complete a technology project to develop an online portal for applications for protective orders in Kansas.  This program, sponsored by the Kansas Courts, is in progress and we will be excited to share the results in the new year.  Third, the School of Law just learned that we have been awarded a grant of $308,000 by the Department of Justice to continue our partnership with the Midwest Innocence Project by hiring a clinical professor to operate a law school clinic focusing on postconviction testing of DNA evidence to establish innocence.   These are only a few of the many ways that the School of Law is living its mission to be student centered, community connected, and justice driven.  We welcome your partnership in this exciting work.

Peace,
Barb

Barbara Glesner Fines
Dean and Rubey M. Hulen Professor of Law

Dean's Message November 2020

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, this holiday devoted to gathering and gratitude will look very different for some of us. As we weigh the risks of gathering in the midst of a pandemic and forgo or limit some gathering, it can be easy to forgo the gratitude part of this holiday as well. Never has gratitude been more important, so let me take this opportunity then to say thank you to you all.

Thank you for the work you do each day. The excellence and professionalism you bring to your work raises the reputation of your alma mater right along with your own.

Thank you for helping to educate our students: as adjunct professors, guest lecturers in classes and on program panels, and graders in our bar preparation program. It hasn't been easy. We've had to learn how to connect to students across new technologies, or through physically distanced and masked classrooms. We are all grateful for your commitment to the future of our profession and our community.

Thank you for helping our students to transition into their professional career by providing mentorship and opportunities to these students as clerks, interns in our field placement program, post-graduate Truman Fellows, or new attorneys in your office. Your gift reaches far beyond the students you guide to build a legal community with an uncommon degree of civility and generosity.

Thank you for providing financial support. Because of you, we have been able to sustain students who are facing layoffs of family members, home schooling of children, unreliable technology or connectivity, along with all the other financial and personal stress that law school ordinarily presents. Your donation is a much-needed expression of confidence and caring and a critical message of commitment to the School of Law.

UMKC School of Law could not continue to provide excellent, innovative and connected teaching, research, and service without your gifts. So while I may not have the opportunity to gather with you this Thanksgiving, please know that I am enormously grateful to you all.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Barb

Barbara Glesner Fines
Dean and Rubey M. Hulen Professor of Law