Students said Lane "shows his face a lot" on campus. He chats with students studying in the library and holds regular meetings with a student advisory group.
"We have an open dialogue on what the law school's doing, and he'll ask us what they should be doing or any type of feedback we might have," said Jenelle DeVits, a 3L and associate editor of the law review.
A constitutional scholar, Lane co-authored the book The Genius of America: How the Constitution Saved Our Country and Why It Can Again, on the Constitution's role in a politically polarized nation. He also has written two textbooks on the legislative process and statutory interpretation.
He said instilling fundamental values in his students is more important now than ever before.
"I want them to leave here thinking that being a lawyer is an honor and a privilege," Lane said. "In this society the only private people who swear an oath to support the Constitution are lawyers. That is a very important and symbolic moment because in one sense, it makes you a public servant. I don't care if you're private."
Lane said he didn't start out to be a lawyer. After earning an advanced degree in English and American literature from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Lane said he realized he didn't have a clear career goal, so he enrolled at Fordham University School of Law. As a 1L, he was soon bored with rote memorization of case law, and took several months off to backpack throughout South America and Mexico. He got his J.D. in 1970 and soon started a small general practice in Mineola, N.Y., with two partners.
In 1976, Monroe Freedman, then dean of Hofstra Law and a client of Lane's, recruited him to teach just two weeks before the academic year began. Never mind that he'd never taught before or taken classes on public international law or conflicts of law, his assigned course topics.
"When first-semester student evaluations came in, I was in tears," Lane said, laughing.
But he caught on quickly, he said, going on to teach courses that drew on his time in Albany and city government.
This semester, Lane is teaching an introductory course on administrative law to first-year students. In the classroom he takes a problem-first approach, teaching his students to think like lawyers do.