Dean's Message

Dean's Message September 2021

portrait of Dean Barbara Glesner Fines

Each year, National Jurist magazine ranks a variety of law school programs. These rankings provide focused attention on unique qualities of law schools. For example, UMKC consistently ranks among the top law schools as a “Best Value” law school, with our low tuition and our excellent ultimate bar passage and employment outcomes. The rankings also recognize exceptional law school programs. UMKC Law has been given top ratings for nine different programs.

We were especially pleased to recently receive recognition in two categories that each reflect, the quality of our educational programs and the amazing achievements of our graduates.

UMKC’s Family Law program was awarded an A+ rating (one of only six schools nationally to get this top grade), and our program is the featured story in the magazine. This rating reflects not only our outstanding faculty and students, but the extraordinary contributions of our family law alumni who serve as adjunct faculty, judge graduates’ portfolio presentations, provide internship and clerkship opportunities, mentor our students, and hire our graduates. Those partnerships were also recognized recently when the UMKC Trustees awarded the School of Law’s Family Law program the Leo E. Morton Community Engagement Award.

Our alumni were the highlight of our ranking as one of the top 45 schools in the country for the percentages of grads (13%!) named as Super lawyers and Rising Stars. (UMKC was the only law school serving the Kansas City region to be named to this list!). We have always known that our graduates are disproportionately represented in local recognitions such as the KC Business Journal’s Best of the Bar, but it was gratifying to see that on a national scale, UMKC alumni are recognized for their excellence.

Congratulations to each of you who contributed to these recognitions! We appreciate all you do to help our law school shine. I look forward to celebrating in person with you at our 125th Anniversary Gala on Saturday, Nov. 6th!

Fauculty Update

portrait of Mikah Thompson

Associate Professor Mikah Thompson was appointed, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for the UMKC School of Law. . Mikah brings an extraordinary wealth of experience to this position. She represented clients in employment law matters in private practice and served as the Director of Affirmative Action, Title IX Coordinator, and ACA Accommodations Coordinator for UMKC. Her scholarship investigates the role of race in the law, and she translates that expertise into community impact through her work leading the Missouri Supreme Court’s Racial and Ethnic Fairness Commission, among other community commitments. She is an outstanding teacher. She developed and taught both the Seminar in Race and the Law and the Seminar in Sexual Orientation and the Law at the School of Law. She is currently helping to develop DEI curricula at the Schools of Medicine of both UMKC and MU. In her role as Associate Dean, Mikah will continue this broad leadership work and represent the School of Law on the UMKC Chancellor’s Diversity Council.

Doris Kearns Goodwin, Featured Speaker at the School of Law’s 125th Anniversary Gala

portrait of Doris Kearns Goodwin

You don’t want to miss the UMKC School of Law’s 125th Anniversary Gala on Saturday, Nov. 6, at the Kansas City Convention Center. Catch-up with friends, colleagues, and alumni during the cocktail hour and dinner that is included with your event ticket. Then, enjoy featured speaker, Doris Kearns Goodwin, a world-renowned presidential historian, public speaker, and New York Times #1 best-selling author. Individual tickets are $150. Table sponsorships are also available for $1,500 and seat ten guests. For more details and additional sponsorship opportunities with marketing benefits for your firm or business, please visit UMKCLaw125.org. (photo by Annie Leibovitz)

Peace

Barb

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

Message Archive

Dean's Message January 2021

Dear alumni community,

This has been such a difficult start to the new year in so many ways.

While we all have been looking to the horizon of the pandemic, now visible as vaccines have been approved and are being distributed, the virus has not abated. On January 2nd, as I'm sure you all have seen, COVID-19 took JoEllen Flanagan-Engelbart (JD'15) only a few days after she gave birth to her son Ross, three months early. JoEllen represented everything that makes UMKC Law graduates stand out in our community. She was an outstanding student, talented advocate, devoted student and alumni leader, beloved colleague, and indefatigable volunteer. Our deepest condolences go to her husband Matthew Engelbart and son Ross and all those whose lives will be diminished by her absence. Read more about JoEllen's remarkable impact.

We had hoped for more in-person classes this semester, especially now that the renovations to classrooms 02 and 05 have been completed, but we will be starting the semester entirely online and will return to some in-person (masked and socially distanced) classes after the end of January. The faculty and students have proven remarkably adepts at pivoting to remote teaching and learning, but we are all suffering from Zoom fatigue" and look forward to being able to interact in hallways, offices, and library again. I suspect the same is true for you in your practices.  I will be offering some “open office hours” (yes, using Zoom) in the weeks ahead.  Please drop by and let us know how you are doing

Finally, of course the events in our nation's capitol on January 6 remain at the forefront of our minds. As I shared with the law school community the day after these events, "watching the violent interference with the Constitutional process required to insure the transition of power in a democracy has only reinforced the importance of the role of lawyers and the rule of law." https://law.umkc.edu/news/2021/janurary/recent-national-events.html 

Peace

Barb

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

Dean's Message February 2021

A challenge for the times

As the temperatures drop below zero, we continue to hunker down in isolation, and we try to continue to serve our students and clients through the challenges of the times, taking care of ourselves must be a top priority. So much good thought and work has gone into the topic of attorney wellness recently as our local and state bar associations convene workshops and taskforces to improve attorney wellbeing. Knowing that attorney wellness turns on habits that are often first developed in law school, here at the UMKC School of Law, we have long emphasized the need for self-care. Our director of student services Ashley Swanson-Hoye has been honored by the University with the Living the Values staff award for her work on the front lines of helping students with the personal challenges they weather while in law school. Ann Chambers from the Missouri Lawyers Assistance Program is an extraordinary resource for the students, holding regular (now virtual) office hours at the school. Our students work through their Oliver Society to plan events and programs to support wellness in all its dimensions. To further support these efforts, I have issued a self-care challenge to our law school community to carry us through until Spring Break. If you would like to join the challenge, simply set aside some time each day between now and the end of March to devote to improving your self-care. Check out the UMKC Ethical Issues in Family Representation Blog (at https://info.umkc.edu/familylawethics/ ) blog for a self care tool or tip each day of the challenge. The posts will not be limited to self care for family law attorneys, but are designed to help maintain healthy practice in any field. Some of our faculty have assigned our students the self-care challenge. You too can feel free to share the challenge and the blog with your colleagues if you like. Check in often and try out a tool. Share ideas in the comments. If you would like to be a guest blogger for the day with a self-care practice or perspective, please send me your post and I'll be happy to share (with attribution of course). I am continually inspired by the dedication of our faculty, staff, students, alumni and legal community to their ability to aim ad eruditio per aspera(to hack the Kansas state motto). Be safe, stay warm, and take good care of yourselves.

Peace

Barb

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

Dean's Message March 2021

A Celebration of Connection

One year ago, we faced an impending pandemic, with little warning of what the time ahead would look like. How amazing it is that one year later, through isolation and separation, we have continued to stay so connected and focused on our mission of being a justice-driven law school. These past few weeks provide some marvelous examples in which our students have led our community to support our programs, our community, and each other. On February 26, our students in the Family Law Society hosted our annual trivia night – though a virtual event this year, a good time was had by all. Through the generosity of Professor Julie Cheslik and Paul Black, who matched the scholarship donations, the event raised over $6000 for the clinic, the Baty Family Law Scholarship, and the Kristin Campbell Johnson Scholarship. On March 2nd another group of extraordinary students – the Diverse Student Coalition – hosted our annual diversity scholarship event. Again, a virtual event, the program once again raised nearly $70,000, to add to the scholarship endowment. We welcomed our new students to Admitted Students Day on March 19, with remarks by Judge Melissa Taylor Standridge (JD ‘93), newly appointed to the Supreme Court of Kansas. On March 23rd, the Oliver Fellows event, while virtual, was be especially meaningful. Professor Sean O’Brien (JD ‘80) introduced the 2020 Oliver Fellow, Shelbi Danner, who serves as a Deputy Public Defender in Colorado. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker (JD ‘98) presented remarks honoring our 2015 Oliver Fellow JoEllen Flanagan Engelbart, whom we lost recently to COVID-19. The Oliver Fellowship honors Judge John W. Oliver and provides financial support for those pursuing public interest positions.

Spring will bring even more opportunities for connection and community. We are looking forward to once again hosting our newest graduates who will be sworn into the Missouri and Federal Bar at the law school’s courtroom. While these students had a virtual graduation event, we are pleased we have made arrangement to have a safe in-person ceremony for this momentous occasion. The University will be celebrating our alumni award winners virtually in April and the law school couldn’t be more proud at our representation among the winners: Jim Polsinelli was selected as the Bill French Service Award; the Edelman Family, including the law school’s own Ron (JD ‘82) , Mark (JD ‘75), and Alex (JD ‘12) will be this year’s recipient of the Legacy Family Award; and Mira Mdviani (JD ‘99) will be recognized as the UMKC School of Law Alumna of the Year. Read more about this year’s award winners.

It won’t be long now before we will be able to more many more of these celebrations to in-person events and we can hardly wait. In the meantime, all of us at UMKC Law wish you health and joy.

Peace

Barb

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

Dean's Message April 2021

Forming Leaders in Challenging Times

It’s that time of year when we begin thinking of graduations and final report cards. For UMKC School of Law, I am proud to say that we have a very strong report card this year, despite the extraordinary challenges we have faced In national rankings of expertise by National Jurist and preLaw magazines, UMKC Law School has been awarded “grades” of A+ in Family Law; A in Tax and Trial Advocacy; A- in Business Law, Practical Training, Technology Law and Intellectual Property. In addition, our US News & World Report ranking for the School of Law increased 22 points. 

Of course, these “grades” are simply evidence of what we already know – that we have a group of extraordinarily dedicated faculty, staff and alumni who deliver a tremendous value to our students. Our tuition remains the lowest among the law schools in Missouri and Kansas and our graduate employment and ultimate bar pass rates match those of schools with substantially greater resources. Nonetheless, 80% of UMKC Law Students carry student loans. While UMKC Law is in the bottom 40% of law schools nationwide in terms of the amount of debt our students carry, that sum is still enough to foreclose many career options in public service or government work that students might otherwise truly prefer to pursue. Through the generosity of donors to our scholarship programs and our post-graduate public interest Oliver Fellowship, we are working to lower the debt burden for our students.

For over 125 years, UMKC Law has taken pride in providing access to the legal profession, especially for those students who might not otherwise be able to attend law school. We’ve just weathered an incredibly challenging time in our history, yet we’ve known that challenge often forges great leadership. Consider the class of 1932, which began with nearly 250 students in the depths of the Great Depression. By graduation, that group was reduced by nearly two-thirds. The class was diverse for its time: eight women were in the graduating class. It was also notable for the quality of its graduates. For example, Jay P. Dillingham went on to become the President of the Kansas City Stockyards and a long-time business leader, and an award in his honor was established at the law school. His classmate Jack Miller became President and Founder of Trenton Foods. The Miller Foundation established in his honor a full-tuition scholarship to one entering UMKC law student each year. Other notable leaders from that class include Rabbi Jehudah Braver, Chief Rabbi of the United Orthodox Synagogues of Greater Kansas City; and Hilary Ashby Bush, who was Jackson County Prosecutor in the 1940s and 50s and the 37th lieutenant governor of Missouri from 1961-65. 

What leaders will we see emerge from this graduating class?  Will you help your law school continue to provide a legal education that nurtures these leaders? Your donation to our scholarship funds can quite literally open the door to a legal education.

Peace

Barb

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

Dean's Message June 2021

What can we do for you?

What a wonderful commencement we all enjoyed this Spring!  The graduating class of 2021 had hooding ceremonies in small groups.  It was a lovely way to honor the special accomplishments of each of our graduates.  Eight of our alumni hooded their graduating family members.  Hooding their children were Rodney Ames (J.D. ’96), Ed McConwell (J.D. ’66), Amy Quinn (J.D. ’13), Don Peterson (J.D. ’72), Carl Scarborough (J.D. ’12), Ben Schmitt (J.D. ’89) and Andrea Spillars (J.D. ’89).  Emma Ross (J.D. ’19) hooded her sister. These events were followed by a university commencement at Kauffman Stadium.  In the morning, a ceremony was held for the 2021 graduates from law, engineering, and business.  While the weather was generally drenching wet, the rain stopped just as the first law student stepped onto the field to receive their diploma and then started again as the last law student stepped off the field. The afternoon’s ceremony for the 2020 graduates was less cooperative, but the joy of seeing our students receive their diplomas with their families cheering from the stands was priceless.  Special thanks go to our own Kyle Vena (J.D. ’05), Vice President of Community Impact for the Royals, for making this possible for the university. 

Our alumni are all so generous.  Like our alumni hooders this year, so many of you recruit family members and friends to attend UMKC Law. Like Kyle Vena, so many of you direct community support to the law school and our programs.  Hundreds of you volunteer your time in teaching, coaching, judging, advising, mentoring or hiring our students; or make financial donations that are at the highest rate of any alumni group on campus.  Thank you.

Our national rankings, campus awards, bar passage and employment rates tell us that we are enhancing the value of your degree by providing quality education, research and service to the region and beyond. We can do more if you let us know of your accomplishments so that we can spread the good news.  I hope you all have received our first-ever 100% online copy of Res Ipsa magazine.  We love to share your story there and elsewhere.  For news, ideas, and suggestions, email resipsa@umkc.edu .

 Our continuing legal education program provides some of the highest quality educational programs in the region: from large annual programs with loyal partners such as the Kansas City Estate Planning Symposium to our annual “Time is Now” programs in June to on-demand and webinar programs throughout the year.  Do you have a particular need for continuing legal education programs?  Let us know.  We are always happy to collaborate with our alumni.

Our professional and career development center has been helping students to forge their career paths with astounding success – even in these most challenging times.  If you have a need to hire or if you yourself are considering a career move, our professionals in the career center are ready to help.

Of course, our alumni association is here to help you connect with one another and the law school.  The Alumni Association encourages you to register for the UMKC Law Alumni Directory, which will allow you to stay connected and get referrals from your former classmates and other alumni.  For help, contact Cary Powers at powerscl@umkc.edu or 816-235-5361. 

I hope you all are well.  My faculty and staff colleagues and I who have been fully vaccinated have been enjoying planning more in-person events this summer and into the fall.  Do be sure to keep our 125th Anniversary Gala on your calendar – the evening of November 6th.  At that point we will technically be celebrating 125.01 years, but we are thrilled to be able to round up and turn out for this event! 

Peace

Barb

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

Dean's Message August 2021

A new school year has arrived, and we are looking forward to being able to enjoy more time together in person this year. Of course, safety comes first. We learned a lot this past year about how to create both a safe and effective educational environment and we will be applying those lessons. We will be starting the new year wearing masks in the law school building, regardless of vaccination status.

Our incoming class is strong and diverse, with our current first-year enrollment standing at 135 students. Their academic credentials are stronger than ever. LSAT scores of the class have increased one point at the 25th and 50th percentiles and two points at the 75th percentile, with similar increases in entering grade point averages. The class has 54% women, 22% identifying as students of color, 21% first generation college, and 6% veterans or active-duty military. Their average age is 25. Of the 135, 25 began as spring-start students in January of 2021 and 17 began in our summer-start program. Both cohorts began their legal education with most or all of their classes being delivered online. This fall, they will be joining our 93 fall-start students. Thank you to all our alumni who have recommended UMKC Law School to potential students and who will be helping our new class begin to develop their new identity as attorneys.

We are very happy to welcome new faculty members this year as well. Joining us from Mississippi College of Law to teach Property and Entrepreneurial Urban Development will be Visiting Professor Randall Johnson. Coming back to their alma mater to teach in our Lawyering Skills program are Associate Visiting Clinical Professors Michael Tripp (JD’93) and Meghan Sholy-Wells (JD’18). Leading our renewed Innocence Clinic and teaching the Wrongful Convictions course will be Adjunct Clinical Professor David Tushaus, who will be supervising students in partnership with the Midwest Innocence Project. Finally, you likely read about our ever growing Truman Fellowship program, in which our recent graduates serve with our clinical programs to increase access to justice. The Truman Fellow tenant eviction project has been particularly vital, with oversight by our own UMKC alumni, Adjunct Clinical Professors David White (JD’82) and Brian Larios (JD’91).

We will be holding the majority of our classes in person this fall for the first time since Spring of 2020. Our newly renovated classrooms will be awaiting the classes. Thanks to the generosity of the Sunderland Foundation, these classrooms offer maximum flexibility in learning configurations, including the technological tools to be able to hold classes in a hybrid in-person/online format. With these two classrooms added to the Arthur Stoup Courtroom (also fully hybrid capable), the law school now has the most technologically sophisticated classroom options on campus.

Our professional and career development center has been helping students to forge their career paths with astounding success – even in these most challenging times.  If you have a need to hire or if you yourself are considering a career move, our professionals in the career center are ready to help.

We are looking forward to our delayed celebration of our 125th Anniversary! Mark your calendars now for our Saturday, November 6th celebration. Ticket and table purchases and event sponsorships can be purchased on the 125th Anniversary Gala webpage. Thank you to our alumni leaders who have already agreed to sponsor the event: Jack Bangert, Scott Bethune, Tom Jones, and Mira Mdivani. We are currently planning for an in-person event but will of course follow the directives of our public health and university officials. As a reminder, Doris Kearns Goodwin will be the featured speaker at this event and a portion of the proceeds will help establish the 125th Anniversary Endowed Scholarship, which will support students who show interest in and talent for pursuing community-connected and justice-driven legal careers following the mission of the law school for more than 125 years.

Peace

Barb

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

Dean's Message September 2021

Each year, National Jurist magazine ranks a variety of law school programs. These rankings provide focused attention on unique qualities of law schools. For example, UMKC consistently ranks among the top law schools as a “Best Value” law school, with our low tuition and our excellent ultimate bar passage and employment outcomes. The rankings also recognize exceptional law school programs. UMKC Law has been given top ratings for nine different programs.

We were especially pleased to recently receive recognition in two categories that each reflect, the quality of our educational programs and the amazing achievements of our graduates.

UMKC’s Family Law program was awarded an A+ rating (one of only six schools nationally to get this top grade), and our program is the featured story in the magazine. This rating reflects not only our outstanding faculty and students, but the extraordinary contributions of our family law alumni who serve as adjunct faculty, judge graduates’ portfolio presentations, provide internship and clerkship opportunities, mentor our students, and hire our graduates. Those partnerships were also recognized recently when the UMKC Trustees awarded the School of Law’s Family Law program the Leo E. Morton Community Engagement Award.

Our alumni were the highlight of our ranking as one of the top 45 schools in the country for the percentages of grads (13%!) named as Super lawyers and Rising Stars. (UMKC was the only law school serving the Kansas City region to be named to this list!). We have always known that our graduates are disproportionately represented in local recognitions such as the KC Business Journal’s Best of the Bar, but it was gratifying to see that on a national scale, UMKC alumni are recognized for their excellence.

Congratulations to each of you who contributed to these recognitions! We appreciate all you do to help our law school shine. I look forward to celebrating in person with you at our 125th Anniversary Gala on Saturday, Nov. 6th!

Fauculty Update

Associate Professor Mikah Thompson was appointed, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for the UMKC School of Law. . Mikah brings an extraordinary wealth of experience to this position. She represented clients in employment law matters in private practice and served as the Director of Affirmative Action, Title IX Coordinator, and ACA Accommodations Coordinator for UMKC. Her scholarship investigates the role of race in the law, and she translates that expertise into community impact through her work leading the Missouri Supreme Court’s Racial and Ethnic Fairness Commission, among other community commitments. She is an outstanding teacher. She developed and taught both the Seminar in Race and the Law and the Seminar in Sexual Orientation and the Law at the School of Law. She is currently helping to develop DEI curricula at the Schools of Medicine of both UMKC and MU. In her role as Associate Dean, Mikah will continue this broad leadership work and represent the School of Law on the UMKC Chancellor’s Diversity Council.

Doris Kearns Goodwin, Featured Speaker at the School of Law’s 125th Anniversary Gala

You don’t want to miss the UMKC School of Law’s 125th Anniversary Gala on Saturday, Nov. 6, at the Kansas City Convention Center. Catch-up with friends, colleagues, and alumni during the cocktail hour and dinner that is included with your event ticket. Then, enjoy featured speaker, Doris Kearns Goodwin, a world-renowned presidential historian, public speaker, and New York Times #1 best-selling author. Individual tickets are $150. Table sponsorships are also available for $1,500 and seat ten guests. For more details and additional sponsorship opportunities with marketing benefits for your firm or business, please visit UMKCLaw125.org

Peace

Barb

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

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