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Editor’s note: Texas Tech University School of Law Dean Frank Newton, 57, resigned effective Dec. 31 to begin a new phase of his life. Newton will become executive director of the Class Settlement Charity Foundation in Beaumont, Texas, which has been started to distribute millions of dollars left over from the $2.1 billion settlement in the class action, Ethan Shaw, et al. v. Toshiba Corp. The left-over funds, estimated at $360 million, will be used to provide computers to low-income students across the country. Newton was interviewed by Texas Lawyer senior reporter Mary Alice Robbins about his years as a legal educator, the changes he believes are needed in law schools and the foundation that he will head. Q: How long have you been a legal educator? A: It’s been about 30 years. I taught at Baylor [University School of Law] from 1972 until 1985. In 1985, I came to Tech. Q: What do you think has been your biggest accomplishment as dean? A: It was helping to ensure that a new law school went from a bare-bones traditional operation to a full range of programs that is reflective of where legal education is today in the United States. Fifteen years ago, there were no international programs [at the Tech law school]. There were no clinical programs. There were no classes that involved simulation. It was a law school that was peopled by Anglo males who taught only in classrooms using the Socratic method. Now, over a quarter of the faculty — 26 percent — are women. And about one-fifth — 18 percent — are minority faculty members. Instead of just one law review, there is an Administrative Law Journal. There’s a County bench book; there’s a district bench book. Students produce the Texas Bank Lawyer. It [my job] really was just fleshing out what was a very good beginning law school. It was only created in the late 1960s, but it was created based on a very traditional model of legal education. Converting that model into one which is more reflective of the 21st century has been, I think, the most exciting part of what has happened during that approximately 17-year period. The student body has changed as well. We’ve grown dramatically in the number of women students as well as minority students. That has come about because we have a $1.5 million-a-year scholarship program. We had virtually no scholarships initially and that made it hard to attract the kind of diversity and talent that are necessary. After all, at some point law schools are successful because of the success of their graduates, and it’s important to attract the kind of students who will be successful, both in law school and thereafter in practice. Q: Is there a particular program or goal that you would like to see your successor pursue? A: Once a law school dean is gone, the most important thing is just to stay gone and not give advice to those who come behind him. I would not pretend to have a formula for whoever comes here to serve in the future. Q: How have law students changed over the years since you’ve been the dean? A: I don’t really think that students are dramatically different. To be sure, there are slight differences in clothing, music, those kinds of things. The truth of the matter is that since I have started teaching, I have always found my students to be bright [and] better athletes than you normally would expect to find. They have better senses of humor. They have a sense of civic obligation that is at the core of being a professional. I think they were that way in 1972, and they are still that way in 2001. But happily, both the faculty and the student body look more like the public they serve. We still haven’t gotten there; we’ve still got a ways to go. But, in my mind, that has made legal education more professional — more professional precisely because we relate to what is happening in the state of Texas and in the nation instead of remaining an isolated time-warped group that is not diverse or not inclusive of women. Q: Do you see the need for any kind of significant changes in legal education? A: I do. The biggest change is the change that was forecast by the so-called MacCrate Report. [It was named for Robert MacCrate, a New York City lawyer who served as president of the American Bar Association in 1987-1988.] The ABA looked at American legal education to see how it was doing. It concluded that legal education had become too far removed from bench and bar, the real practice of law. Everybody got together, had all these meetings, and everybody said, “Oh, that’s right, and we’re going to change.” Then immediately legal educators forgot that and went on their way doing what they were doing. If law schools are really to change in a way that they should, we would bring in successful practitioners instead of what we currently do. What we currently do is we hire people who were very good students, who briefed for a judge right out of law school, who worked for a year or two as an associate in a large law firm. By the time we hire these people, they are very bright. But, generally speaking, half of their life as a lawyer has been spent in law school. As wonderful as it is to work for a judge and as great an education that a student might obtain being an associate in a large firm, these are people who’ve never been practicing lawyers or at least not lawyers who have reached the level of great competence and ability. The culture of American legal education is to assume that all of your students, or at least students who are successful, want to teach in law school. That is, we teach our students as if the best and highest calling is to be a law professor. We treat all of our students as though all of them want to be just like us. In point of fact, if you take every position at every ABA-approved law school and you take into account the people who are lawyers and who are graduates of those schools, less than one-half of 1 percent of all law school graduates work as law professors. Ninety-nine plus percent do other things, mostly practicing law or being judges. So, legal education has aimed at less than one-half of 1 percent. Our best and brightest students don’t want to teach in law school. Consequently, we are further removed from the practice [of law] than we should be. We are not as good and as strong as we should be because we are not connected well enough to the bench and bar. Instead of hiring only very junior lawyers who can be molded to believe what existing faculty believe, we ought to challenge ourselves to take people who have served as judges to teach about appellate practice. We ought to have professors who have done complex real estate transactions instead of people who only teach based on reading a textbook. We should have people teaching complex litigation who have handled these big class action suits instead of professors who have never been in a courtroom but who use a textbook to talk about Rule 42. MOVING ON Q: What made you decide to leave legal education after all these years? A: I had committed to stay through [the 2001] legislative session because I thought it very important that we work on the resource base for public law schools in Texas. We were able to get an authorization for a tuition increase and, indeed, have increased tuition here at this law school because we needed more resources, particularly for the library, but also for faculty. [Tech spokeswoman Sally Post says tuition for in-state students increases from $160 to $240 an hour, beginning in the fall of 2002.] I had pretty much made up my mind that once I discharged that responsibility, I would consider other alternatives, in part, because most of the programmatic changes that I thought needed to be made are now in place. Also, after 16 years, it’s probably good to go do something else for a change. Q: Is the foundation to which you are going funded only from the settlement in the Toshiba suit, or are tobacco settlement funds involved? A: There is no tobacco money involved. This [Toshiba] was simply one of the largest class action settlements in the history of the nation. Because of that, it was clear that after the physical process of giving winning plaintiffs their shares, there would be money left over. What was not understood at the outset was how much money would be left over. I think probably the assumption was there might be $50 million or $60 million. It was still a very worthy thing to set up a foundation to help provide computer access to low-income students. When it became clear that it was going to be closer to $360 million, with distribution taking several years, it would mean that money — even as you’re giving it away — would make more money. We’re talking about a significant amount of money. [Newton earlier estimated that about $400 million would be available.] In fact, over the years that this foundation will distribute itself out of existence — and that is our goal — it will probably be in the top 10 foundations in the United States in terms of the amount of money being given out. The idea that we would be able to use the law as an additional vehicle to address societal problems became very appealing. When I was offered an opportunity to step in and participate in setting out what I hope will be a model program in terms of our success and hopefully a model program in the sense of encouraging other courts and other cases to consider doing this sort of thing, it seemed like a natural. Q: You had recommended last year that the Texas Tech law school be renamed for Wayne Reaud, who is one of the attorneys who represented the plaintiffs in the Toshiba suit and is involved in the foundation. Had you two been talking about this foundation when the name change was being discussed? [Texas Tech regents ultimately declined Reaud's offer.] A: No, we never discussed this foundation at that point. Q: How is the money to be distributed by the foundation? A: Part of my job is to talk to educators in 50 states and the secretary of education nationally to make sure that the method of undertaking this program makes sense from an educational standpoint and also will involve partnering with other foundations and support groups that are helping address educational problems. This is not going to be a Lone Ranger operation so much as it’s going to be a cooperative operation that will leverage the availability of computers as a part of assisting in the educational need of Americans across the United States. The details of how this will work are yet to be determined. I anticipate that we will conduct pilot programs and, based on that, will then build into more active programs as we learn. There is no blueprint for this. Part of our goal and part of the challenge is to make sure this distribution is efficient in the sense of doing the most good that’s possible. Q: Are you looking at the possibility of grants? A: We are talking definitely about grants that will be made, and we’re talking about making sure, both from a fiscal standpoint and a programmatic standpoint, that the grantees are using the computers effectively. Q: What kind of governance board or policy-making board will the foundation have? A: The foundation has a board of directors that is comprised of attorneys from both sides, the plaintiffs’ side and the defense side in the Toshiba case. It includes a nonlawyer, the president of Toshiba USA — a man named Rod Keller, who turns out to be a Texan and someone who has worked for Dell Computer Corp. before becoming president of Toshiba. He will be a part of the board, although he cannot participate in the purchase of computers nor affect the work of the other directors in connection with that. One of the requirements for the Internal Revenue Service in granting the 501(c)(4) status of the foundation had to ensure that Toshiba could not leverage this to its advantage in a way that was noncompetitive. The people who were in this suit — the plaintiffs, their lawyers, the defendants, the defendants’ lawyers — agreed that it would be a far better thing to take the remainder of the settlement and use it to address education rather than argue that the property should revert to the [Toshiba] corporation on the one hand or be taken over by the government in an escheat kind of action or be distributed to the plaintiffs’ lawyers. Part of the genius of this approach is it is creative and allows the law and what lawyers do to be used in a way that benefits the good of the public. In this case, it was a nationwide class action, and the benefit will similarly be made available nationwide in all 50 states. Q: When do you hope to get up and running and start the distribution? A: I am hoping that we can have pilot projects ready to go in about six months. That may be a little bit ambitious. Pilot operations, if they work, we’ll follow up on. If they don’t seem to be productive, we’ll seek alternative approaches. There’s not going to be a single approach. There won’t be a single program, a one size fits all. There will be many subparts to what we do. Q: Your role basically is to oversee all of this and to come up with the plan of how to do the distribution? A: Of course, the directors of the foundation are my bosses. It’s the same way any other traditional foundation would work. But the executive director of the foundation is the person who is responsible for helping focus the decisions of the trustees, first, and secondly implementing the goals of the foundation through a grant-making and site-visit program. It’s like what we do at the Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation. You set criteria for grants. You actually work with your grantees; you’re proactive in helping them. That’s going to be particularly important in this foundation because the greatest need is likely to come from people who may never have written a grant before. Our goal is to make sure we help the true low-income need that exists. We will work with our grantees. We will help them be successful along the way, and we will review their work, not just programmatically but also fiscally to make sure the money is going to the desired end. That whole process will require that we have a staff. Obviously, we are going to have to have a chief financial officer. We’re going to have to make decisions about how to handle the money. We will not solicit money. We will not ask anybody for money. This is only a distribution of money that is already on hand. On the other hand, when you’re talking about that much money and a five- to eight-year distribution period, obviously you have to think about investing the money. But the money also has to be available in time to make the grants. All of that process falls under the responsibility of the executive director.

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