Tradition and History Helping to Move MSU College of Law into the Future

Nov 7, 2016

Lawrence Ponoroff is the new dean of the MSU College of Law.  He joins Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon and Spartans Athletic Director Mark Hollis on MSU Today.

“What really attracted me to this position is its uniqueness in that, in many ways, this is a brand new law school,” says Ponoroff.  “And that presents the potential for a lot of opportunities.  I think we’ve only begun to scratch the surface in terms of really leveraging the MSU brand.

“But unlike a brand new law school, we have a 125-year-old tradition of educating four generations of leaders in law, business and politics in Michigan and beyond.”

Ponoroff says he’s impressed by the low barriers to collaboration at MSU.

“Very few problems are problems that are purely legal problems.  There are always dimensions to a problem that call on the expertise of different disciplines.  So we want our students out in appropriate courses around campus.”

He says law schools since the 1890’s are the same in many ways; they were basically a graduate liberal arts education.  Law is one of the original humanities.  He says there wasn’t an expectation that students would be taught how to practice law and no expectation from law firms that students would be prepared to practice law when hired.

“There’s an enormous pressure on us now to be more applied in our educational program because there’s a much greater expectation in the market that our graduates are going to be able to hit the ground running.

“On the other hand, we don’t want to just produce able technicians.  We want our students to graduate with critical thinking skills, the ability to reason analytically and to engage with the world in an almost classic liberal arts sense.  And if we don’t continue to do that, we don’t do our students, the profession or society much good.”

Ponoroff explains how a legal education can be valuable beyond the traditional practice of law and how it’s something, in a difficult job market, that can be put to work in a lot of different ways.

The conversation closes with Ponoroff’s thoughts on technology and social media impacts on the law profession.  And he talks about what a warm and friendly place he found MSU to be upon his arrival to campus.

MSU Today airs Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on AM 870.