- Interviewed by Sarah Ricciardi
After a yearlong national search, the University of Connecticut School of Law has selected Timothy S. Fisher as its new dean. Dean Fisher received his BA from Yale and his JD at Columbia Law School. He has been in private practice for over thirty-five years. Most recently, he was a partner in the Hartford office of McCarter & English. His areas of expertise include ethics, commercial transactions, and construction law, among others. Dean Fisher has taught at several institutions statewide, including our own University of Connecticut as an adjunct instructor. He was previously the President of the Connecticut Bar Foundation and served on the Governor’s Commission on Judicial Reform. Dean Fisher also created the Connecticut Innocence Fund, a unique program that aids exonerees in re-entering society after being released from prison. Currently, he chairs the State’s Commission on Judicial Compensation. He is a valuable member of the Connecticut legal community, and the student body is thrilled to welcome him. Dean Fisher was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions for Pro Se’s first issue of the 2013-2014 school year.
What attracted you to the University of Connecticut School of Law?
This Law School has a great reputation as well as incredible potential to train the best lawyers of the next generation, develop cutting-edge scholarship, and engage in society in ways that improve our institutions of law and government. I am so fortunate to have this opportunity, and hope that the skills and relationships I bring to the job can help move us to the next level in the quality of our programs and in our national and international reputation.
How would you like to improve the relationship between faculty and students?
We need to create spaces and occasions that bring us together as a community engaged in intellectual exploration and service. That cannot be done in classrooms alone, since we learn from each other through informal dialog as much as in classes. I will be searching for ways to use the spaces on our campus, which is probably the most beautiful law school in the world, and identify opportunities that will encourage gatherings among students and faculty where we will get to know each other better.
UConn is known for its extensive clinical programs. In what ways would you like to expand and improve those programs?
UConn is justly proud of its intensive program of clinical education. Many graduates have told me that the most important lessons they learned at our law school came though clinics. We will be looking at how we can expand our programs within the constraints of their relatively high cost, reflecting the intense faculty time they require. I am also very interested in reviewing our externship programs. I will be working with our faculty on ensuring that these are consistently good experiences, with meaningful connection to each student’s personal curriculum plan.
One of the main concerns for law students today is landing a job upon graduation. How do you plan on working with Career Services to improve our employment statistics?
Some of our recent graduates have been disadvantaged by geography, since Connecticut has emerged from the recession more slowly than other parts of the country. But there is much we can do to prepare and steer our students toward the areas where jobs are available. We will do that in several dimensions. First, we will put more focus on opportunities nationally and globally. Second, we will urge students to acquire the vocabulary, knowledge and personal networks of client industries so that they are more employable upon graduation than were past generations of law students. Third, for those who plan a local practice we will develop mentoring programs and networking opportunities to help launch their careers.
Scholarships for second and third year students are limited. With the rising cost of a legal education, how do you plan to keep students matriculating at UConn?
Cost is always a concern, but it is an area of relative advantage for UConn law students. We have one of the lowest in-state tuitions of any law school in New England, and our graduates have one of the lowest levels of law school debt in the country. Merit scholarships are important, but we also need stay focused on affordability of law school for those with limited means. I am also interested in seeking donor support for a loan forgiveness program for those entering public service careers.
What is the one goal you would like to have accomplished by the end of this academic year?
I have a list of about fifty goals. But if you’ll forgive a compound goal, it would be this: to enhance the relationships between the Law School and its stakeholders, including not just students and faculty, but also alumni and donors, other schools of the University, the institutions of government in Connecticut and beyond, and the employer community. This, I believe, will expand our graduates’ job prospects while bringing new opportunities and resources into the school. We are well poised to move this Law School to a new level, and I welcome the opportunity to be part of that challenge.