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Stephen Friedman, a corporate law guru who never dreamed of a life in academe, aims to revolutionize legal curricula. He hopes to make lawyers happier by preparing them differently. How differently? Read his answers to our questions, below. Q: As a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, you were co-chairman of the corporate department. You held vice-presidencies at The Equitable Companies and the E.F. Hutton Group. And you’ve had high-level positions in the federal government, at the Treasury Department and Securities & Exchange Commission. This is a r�sum� that does not always foreshadow a major role in legal education. A: No. Academics was nowhere on my radar. Q: Yet on July 1, you became dean of Pace Law School in White Plains (N.Y.). How does the new job stack up? A: In all I’ve done, nothing has been so much fun. When somebody tells me they want to do something, I can send them to someone useful. I happen to know a lot of people. Q: Besides being helpful, what do you mean to accomplish as dean? A: We need a powerfully different way of looking at what we’re doing as law schools. What I’m talking about is a revolutionary notion. There is a lack of alignment between legal education and the needs of law firms. The legal world has changed. Firms are bigger, they have to train associates much longer, and law is becoming more specialized. We have to train our students to hit the ground running. What’s fun about being a lawyer is being a lawyer — not a first-year associate. The faster we bring students to being productive lawyers, the happier they’ll be. Q: How do you hasten happiness? A: Law schools concentrate on teaching law. But most lawyers, certainly in complex transactions, work on how to structure things. A law student will graduate knowing about a house mortgage, but knowing nothing about how a shopping center comes together. Another example: Civil rights lawyers typically work through nonprofit organizations. So they need not just constitutional law, but New York state taxation law. We should think about legal education in terms of practice areas. Q: Critics might scoff at that as a trade school model. A: My answer would be no and yes. There is a need to be practical. Q: Law schools are impractical? A: We have clinics and courses, internships and externships and trial practice courses. All of these are basically islands, the provinces of individual professors. Q: Which sounds, ironically, like a collection of practice areas at a large firm. A: In many ways, it is. In terms of course work and the rest, law schools have the educational pieces they need. What law schools don’t do very well is to fit the pieces together. So I’m not talking about skills versus substance, I’m talking about how to make a complete beginner. Q: What’s the reaction among your faculty to this notion? A: Some are very interested. Some have lots of questions. It’s like looking through a kaleidoscope. With every click, there’s a new lens. No matter what, the view is illuminating and informative. Q: But the dean’s view has more clout? A: Most deans have very little power, and I have less. It’s like being a prime minister. I’ll be OK as long as I have the consent and support of the faculty. Q: Is this why one of your colleagues in private practice described you as “a patrician on the outside, a street fighter on the inside?” A: I’m an experimental person, and I’m very optimistic. The way you make progress in life is not through huge change, but by small steps every day and all the time.

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