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Some freshly minted J.D.s love practicing law; the thought of an alternative career never even crosses their minds. For others, that’s not the case. It’s that second group that William Powers, dean of the University of Texas School of Law, is trying to reach. Powers has helped implement an alumni association for nonpracticing attorneys. He’s also looking into curriculum changes at the law school that would better prepare students who decide to choose another career option. Three years ago, Lorne Bain, who received his J.D. from UT in 1969, approached Powers with his feelings of disconnect from the law school and its alumni organization. Powers says two truths immediately struck him: First, on-campus recruiters always have wooed potential students with the value of a law degree even if students decide not to practice law; second, conversations with students over the years always have included confessions that some of the same students who worked so hard to get in to law school really wanted to try a different profession. “I realized that we weren’t taking either of those issues seriously,” he says. Bain practiced law less than three years before branching out into the business world by starting his own companies and serving as chief executive officer of others. About five years ago, while attending a law school alumni association function, he conceived of the idea for a way to help nonpracticing law alums network. Much of the alumni association’s activities centered on CLE classes, which as a nonpracticing attorney, didn’t interest him. He believed that if he felt no professional connection with the school he still loved, many more people must experience the same lack of engagement. “There was no place for nonpracticing alums to share their knowledge and talents,” says Bain, a Houston retiree. “If the law school doesn’t have interest from its alumni then it also doesn’t have their financial support.” The UT Law Alumni Association launched the Nonpracticing Alumni Advisory Council in March 2001 as an attempt to reach out and bring former law students back into the fold. In addition, council members work with law school administrators and faculty to create curriculum to expose students to nontraditional ways to use their law degrees. Members also serve as mentors to students who want to pursue alternative careers. The council started with a meeting in Houston to create base support; meetings in Austin and Dallas with UT law graduates who chose alternative careers followed. A group also has formed in San Antonio, and there are plans to bring together former UT law students who live in Washington, D.C., and New York. Bain says he believes that UT is the only law school in the country that has created a way to reach out to its nonpracticing law alumni. David Smith Jr., who graduated from the UT law school in 1993 and now works as deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Interior, says he has felt a disconnect with his peers who practice law since he began a public service career in 1997. He co-chairs the alumni relations committee of the nonpracticing council and believes, “on a very, very basic level it is important for any educational system to have a sense of community and connection with the alumni. The University of Texas law school is very important to me and I have a very active interest to make sure it remains a respected institution. Being a part of [the Nonpracticing Alumni Advisory Council] is a way for me to become involved again.” Powers says he does not have specific data but believes that at least 30 percent of UT’s law school graduates either never practice law or will leave the practice at some point in their career. More than 400 students graduate each year from the UT School of Law. Administrators are considering changes in the curriculum thanks in part to the Nonpracticing Alumni Advisory Council, Powers says. Classes in other graduate schools at UT, such as business, finance and engineering, may soon open up to law students. Notes Powers, “We are by no means going to forget that educating future lawyers is a very important duty of law school. We will not ignore law,” he says. “We want a curriculum to reflect a skill package that is necessary to make our graduates successful 20 years after law school. We’re opening up new avenues.”

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