February 19, 2014
Some thoughts on the mission of a Catholic law school
I have a short essay, in the current issue of the Irish Rover (an alternative student-run paper at the University of Notre Dame) called "What is the Mission of the Catholic Law School?" Here's a bit:
. . . As we see it, a Catholic law school—like Notre Dame—is able to be a better law school, and to better form conscientious professionals and leaders, precisely because it is Catholic. It is well known that law and lawyering receive a good deal of criticism these days, and much of it is well deserved. Too often, law is seen as a “bag of tricks” to be manipulated by the powerful for their own ends; too often, lawyers are content to regard themselves as “hired guns” or as mere technicians; too often, the formulation of legal rules and policies seems driven simply by partisanship rather than wise and prudent consideration of real-world facts and the needs of the community.
At a Catholic law school, though—and at Notre Dame—we can take comfort, and find inspiration, in the fact that our tradition has taught for centuries that law is an “ordinance of reason” and that its aim is the “common good.” Our faith provides a vision of what law, done rightly, is supposed to be, and really can be. It is not an exaggeration to say that the study and practice of law is elevated, for us, because we know that our human efforts to develop and implement just and efficient laws are reflections of—they participate in—the very mind of God. . . .
. . . At Notre Dame Law School, three words, or themes, come up again and again in our conversations about how we should do what we do, how we can strengthen and enrich this university and about what makes us different from the many other fine law schools. Those words are community, integration and vocation. . . .