Hon. Phillip Thompson, Chair
Law School Dean Search Committee
c/o Michael Casey, Esq.
Dear Judge Thompson:
I am pleased to present this letter of application to serve as the next dean of Gonzaga University School of Law. I would like to present this application in three parts: (1) a presentation of a long-term vision for the law school; (2) an implementation strategy for this vision; and (3) my qualifications to undertake this challenge.
I. A Long-Term Vision for the Law School
In the fall of 1997, when Gonzaga University was searching for a new president, I made an appointment to see Fr. Coughlin. Among other things, I mentioned a letter I had written in June of that year to Fr. Grimm, the Provincial for the Oregon Province. I had suggested Fr. Spitzer as a candidate for the position. I asked Fr. Coughlin if he knew Fr. Spitzer and if he thought he would be a viable candidate. "Oh, yes, I know Bob Spitzer," said Fr. Coughlin. Doesn't he have a problem with his vision?" "I wouldn't put it that way," I said. "He has some problems with his eyesight; but his vision is terrific."
I can't claim the same gifts as Fr. Spitzer, but I do share his passion to connect the educational process to a larger vision about human existence. In fact, I have made this the first part of my letter because I believe the differences in vision are the most distinguishing characteristics among the candidates.
My vision, simply stated, is this: Gonzaga Law School should become known as a leader in connecting the practice of law to the human search to find meaning and fulfillment in life. This is an abstract statement, but it has very practical applications.
Social justice in the Catholic tradition. It might seem elementary to suggest that a law school should be committed to justice. In fact, no one would suggest that a law school should simply train good technicians who will be skilled at promoting their own or their clients' interests at the expense of justice. And yet by default we may wind up promoting a philosophy that comes very close to that. The reason is that we have not done an adequate job in convincing our students that the word "justice" has any objective meaning. True, Jesuit law schools frequently pride themselves on being committed to "social justice," but this phrase is usually left undefined. It is also usually disconnected from a specifically Catholic understanding of justice, and instead is left to the interpretation of the individual.
This is a squandered opportunity, because Catholic social teaching provides a rich history of attempts to balance the common good with the rights of the individual. Moreover, Catholic philosophy has sought the connection between human law and the more universal manifestations of natural law and divine law. To say that "justice" has an objective meaning is not to deny that certain questions are controversial. But to admit that justice simply means whatever an individual thinks is right would mean an abandonment of the concept of justice altogether.
To illustrate the practical relevance of this principle, it is worth recalling that, prior to Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, the "law of the land" was that individuals could be denied access to public institutions because of the color of their skin. Such discrimination, long justified by the doctrine of "separate but equal," was clearly unjust. It should have been one of the purposes of a Catholic legal education to compare the legal rule of "separate but equal" with an objective principle of justice. In addition to acquiring the skills to be a competent lawyer, the students at a Catholic law school in that era should have been exposed to a tradition of thinking and a body of social teaching promoting a rule of law more consistent with the equal dignity of every person. As part of its mission, Catholic law schools should have been in the forefront of explaining to society why legal doctrines such as "separate but equal" should be abandoned, and should have helped strategize how the law could be changed to conform to a proper understanding of the role of law in enhancing rather than denying human dignity. True, persons of good will could disagree about the timing and extent of legal efforts to end racial segregation, but there should be no doubt about the institution's basic commitment.
In a similar way, Catholic law schools today should be at the forefront of affirming a "culture of life," calling attention to the areas in which our commitment to the dignity of each human life has been compromised, qualified, and postponed. As in the case of seeking racial justice and reconciliation, there are limits to what the law can do, but part of the job of a Catholic law school is to help illuminate the proper role of law and lawyers in creating a culture that affirms and sustains our most basic values.
The Connection Between Personal and Professional Life. Another area in which Gonzaga Law School can excel, and thus establish a national reputation to attract students, is by helping students connect their professional goals with a focus on personal wholeness. Everyone is in favor of integrity, but it is often forgotten that integrity is simply another word for wholeness. Most professional ethics problems arise not from a calculated design to act contrary to law, but through the inability to recognize boundaries and cope with unexpected stresses and pressures. The law student who does not learn to engage in self-examination is at risk for later professional missteps. By contrast, the student who takes the opportunity in law school to find harmony between the inner self and the outer self will be more likely to be an effective as well as an ethical lawyer.
As widespread as the agreement might be on the desirability of such an approach, it is far from easy to implement a program that explicitly addresses these questions. Too often, awkwardness and a sense of living in a glass house limit law school priorities to acquiring intellectual knowledge and skills. For this reason a bold program that was willing to challenge students, while retaining respect for the sensitive aspects of personal growth, could be very appealing. In particular, the Jesuit emphasis upon spiritual exercise as a foundation for personal wholeness would be a natural connection.
Doing Well and Doing Good. A third aspect of Gonzaga's vision for the future would be a focus on the entrepreneurial. Much of what it takes to be a good lawyer is the willingness to take chances and venture into areas where the outcome is uncertain. A certain amount of risk-taking is essential for success. At the same time, if professional or financial success is sought as a goal in itself, it leads to personal and spiritual dysfunction. For this reason, Gonzaga should capitalize on a Jesuit tradition that stresses personal excellence, but in the service of more fundamental and satisfying personal and social purposes. Much of what Gonzaga already excels at--its moot court teams, its clinic, and its law review--observe a standard of excellence that is very much to be admired. Building on this tradition, Gonzaga should be able to convince students that the pursuit of personal and professional excellence can and should be in the service of the common good. As a corollary, it should be clear that a commitment to the common good can never substitute for high personal and academic standards. At a Jesuit institution, the two should be in service of one another.
Moreover, the desire for excellence should prompt a willingness for innovative renewal, both at a personal level and on an institutional level. The availability of new technology and new techniques should be put into service to abide by the motto of the Society: Ad majorem dei gloriam.
II. An Implementation Strategy
Gonzaga Law School is capable of achieving the vision described above, but in the short run it faces significant budgetary and resource constraints. I believe the next dean will need to take the following steps to achieve the vision described above:
Persuade the university to permit an operating deficit until new recruitment
and development initiatives have begun to yield dividends;
(b) Enhance the law school's present ability to deliver on the vision described above;
(c) Recruit students who are attracted to this vision; and
(d) Persuade benefactors of the law school to provide financial support, both to reduce the operating deficit in the short run and to replace tuition as the primary source of operating revenue
Each of these items is synergistically related to the others.
Enlisting university support. The first task of the new dean will be to secure the permission of the university administration to run an operating deficit in the near term. It is clear that, under current conditions, the law school cannot generate revenue sufficient to cover its operating expenses. While operating expenses could certainly be reduced, the scale of reduction necessary to balance the budget would be so detrimental to the ability of the law school to recruit students that it would likely be counterproductive in the long run. However, the university administration will be understandably reluctant to accept a pie-in-the-sky forecast of a better future that will involve substantial deficits waiting for the rosy promises to fulfill themselves. Painful cost-cutting may be necessary if only to match the level of hardship endured by other divisions of the university. Thus, it will require a combination of fiscal restraint in the short run, along with realistic plans for growth in the future, to persuade the university administration to invest in the law school's improvement plan.
The vision sketched above will require not only a person who believes in it, but also a person who has the skills and desire to articulate it and achieve it. I am attaching my resumé to this letter, but I would like to highlight certain portions of my background that I believe give me an advantage:
A. Familiarity with the Gonzaga community and the Spokane/Washington bar
I have been a member of the Gonzaga faculty since 1988. I have worked on a variety of university-wide committees and have gotten to know key administrators and a variety of faculty and staff. I believe I have a good sense of the Gonzaga community and can be an advocate for it in the larger community. Moreover, I was a member of the Spokane bar for four years, from 1980 to 1984, and practiced with many of the leaders of the local bar, and have taught as students many of the members of the bar. I have published several volumes of the Washington Practice series, and have some name recognition within the Washington State Bar. I could "hit the ground running" in communicating a new vision for the law school and creating an impression that the law school was embarked on an exciting new phase of its life.
B. Strong Relations with the Law School Faculty
I have good personal relations with most of the members of the law school faculty. I should acknowledge that, when I have suggested a strategy for growth such as the one suggested above, many (if not most) of my colleagues have disagreed with me concerning its wisdom as a course of action. Nonetheless, I have maintained reasonably cordial relations with my colleagues on a personal basis. They know me to be a principled, energetic but gracious advocate, one who genuinely wants to help them achieve personal and professional success, while bearing in mind the good of the institution. Even though my colleagues may require persuasion concerning the wisdom of pursuing the course I have outlined, if they are persuaded that it is the one that needs to be followed in order to survive and prosper in the coming years, I believe they would support me. In the language of litigation, they are likely to prefer a devil they know to a devil they don't know.
C. Strong Commitment to Faculty Scholarship
There are more important attributes to a law school dean than a good academic pedigree and a long publication record. However, the reality is that initial impressions of an institution or its leader are shaped in part by these traditional measures of academic excellence. While I believe that Gonzaga Law School will never (or at least, not in the foreseeable future) be able to compete head-to-head with elite institutions who place primary emphasis on faculty scholarship, it is important for Gonzaga not to be identified as a place that has given up on that mission. I believe very strongly that faculty scholarship is an important part of our institutional mission, and does not conflict with, but rather complements, our goal of preparing students for rewarding professional careers. In representing the institution to the larger world, it is important for the new dean to be seen as someone who is a credible voice in the traditional world of legal education. I believe I could perform that function on behalf of the law school.
I appreciate your time in reading this detailed account of my interest in this new opportunity. I look forward to further conversation if the committee is so inclined.
Very truly yours,
David K. DeWolf