Member Spotlight: University of Mississippi

Posted on March 8th, 2013

The University of Mississippi School of Law became the fourth state-supported law school in the nation in 1854, almost ten years after the university opened its doors in 1848.

However the progress, noteworthy accomplishments and change the school has seen in the last few years mark it as anything but antiquated.

gershon-nnlsoFor starters, the school hired a new dean in 2010, Richard Gershon,whose goal was and is to transform the way law school students are educated.

“I want our law school to change the way legal education is taught in the United States,” he said.  “We need to look at the year 2010 and beyond and ask, “How are lawyers going to be trained for the future?”

Gershon received his B.A. from the University of Georgia in 1979 and earned his juris doctorate from the University of Tennessee in 1982.  He completed a Master of Laws degree in taxation at the University of Florida in 1983.

Since then, Gershon has spent his time as a professor and later in administrative duties, serving as dean to both the Texas Wesleyan School of Law and the Charleston School of Law.

At Ole Miss, though, Gershon’s direction is indeed becoming evident.  In 2013, the school will implement a new Skills Session, which devotes the first two weeks of every spring semester to an intensive skills course.Its full spectrum of offerings allows upper level students to focus on litigation, transactional work or public service lawyering, and any number of substantive areas including estate planning, real estate, sports law, entertainment law and intellectual property.  First-year students enroll in Contract Negotiation and Drafting.

The development of this program is also largely the work of associate dean Matthew Hall, who recently began his administrative duties at the law school as well.  Other new positions include communications specialist, Jenny Kate Luster; registrar, Eddie Upton; acting assistant dean for admissions and scholarships, Cary Lee Cluck; and acting assistant dean for student affairs, Macey Edmondson.

The emphasis on teaching practical lawyering skills also extends to the school’s seven different clinical programs: Innocence Project, Criminal Appeals, Street Law, Child Advocacy, Transactional Law, Elder Law and Low-Income Housing. These programs give students the opportunity to not only actually practice law, but also to do so with the close support and guidance of clinical professors and supervising attorneys.

In addition, the school offers participation in the Moot Court Board, whose environmental team won its second consecutive national championship this year at Pace Law School in White Plains, N.Y

Lastly, but certainly not the extent of all new endeavors, the school has moved across campus into a new state-of-the-art facility.  Perhaps one of its most interesting features is its LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified status, which some would describe as “green”, “sustainable” or “responsible architecture”.

LEED addresses criteria in the following groups:  sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality and innovation in design.   The school’s building is one of the only LEED certified buildings in the state.

“The new building facilitates the flow between faculty, staff and students,” Gershon said.  “There’s a lot more open space.  Faculty and student offices are set up near each other, and there’s even a café in the building.”

The building also has a student lounge and courtyard, student organizations suite, group study rooms, Career Services interview rooms and a Moot Court suite. Classrooms contain advanced technology, offering an outstanding learning environment to students. Suites for the school’s various legal clinics and Mississippi Law Journal, as well as lecture theater seating 200 people, are also contained in the building.