Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Would you like to become a great lawyer? Are you looking for one to represent you? You can begin and end your search with Maine's only law school, its distinguished faculty of legal scholars, and its many alumni across the state.
The University of Southern Maine and the state are fortunate to have in our midst a public law school that offers a rigorous education that prepares graduates for leadership roles in both the public and private sectors, lends its expertise to critical public policy issues of the day and provides legal assistance to low-income Mainers.
For example, students in its Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic are authorized to represent low-income Mainers in legal matters and in court. Last year alone, 40 law students, under faculty guidance, represented 600 clients in such areas as juvenile and family law, domestic violence, and probate.
Carol Copeland, who graduated from the law school in 2007, provided legal assistance through the clinic to victims of family violence. Today she works as a full-time lawyer at Caring Unlimited in York County, representing victims of domestic abuse.
Her former classmate Courtney Beer, another clinic veteran, works at Pine Tree Legal Assistance, representing adolescent clients in protection from abuse matters, benefits, housing, family law and education issues. Robyn Merrill ('08), who combined client representation with statewide policy work in juvenile justice, is now an attorney and policy analyst for Maine Equal Justice Partners.
Beyond the Legal Aid Clinic, the Center for Law and Innovation, led by professor Rita S. Heimes, actively supports Maine's research and development community by studying and teaching about the role of intellectual property law in economic development.
The center's Maine Patent Program and Intellectual Property Clinic provide legal advice to our state's inventors, entrepreneurs and researchers on a range of patent, trademark and copyright matters. Through the law school's Marine Law Institute, directed by professor Charles Norchi, Mainers benefit from faculty expertise in fisheries management, border dispute resolution, maritime security and international trade regulations.
Our law school is an important intellectual center, sponsoring events that contribute to vibrant public discourse on issues of the day. The annual Frank M. Coffin Lecture on Law and Public Service attracts leading national thinkers and legal practitioners, such as former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, professor Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and Kenneth R. Feinberg, special master of the Federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.
The faculty -- the heart of every institution of higher education -- is highly respected and widely published. It includes some of the nation's experts on Wall Street reform, the environmental challenges we face as a nation and a society, the need for energy efficiency, and the impact of bankruptcy law and foreclosures.
Maine Law is especially proud that its graduates serve in public sector leadership roles. Our students have gone on to become Maine's governors, justices (including the chief justice) of the Maine Supreme Court, Maine's attorneys general and U.S. attorneys.
In addition, the law school's reach increasingly extends to disciplines beyond the traditional bounds of the legal profession. In the emerging world of data privacy, 1995 graduate J. Trevor Hughes, a resident of York, is CEO of the International Association of Privacy Professionals, the world's largest membership association for lawyers, government employees and information technology experts who work in the field of privacy.
Hughes has built a large and growing global enterprise, and he is frequently called upon to speak and advise on privacy issues around the world.
Matthew Cobb, one of 90 members of the class of 2011, earned his undergraduate degree and returned to his hometown of Roque Bluffs in Washington County to work as a commercial fisherman. He later graduated from Maine Law where he was editor-in-chief of the Maine Law Review.
Cobb is now clerking for Maine Supreme Court Justice Andrew M. Mead. After his clerkship he will join the Bangor law firm of Rudman Winchell.
An administrative unit of the University of Southern Maine, the University of Maine School of Law has emerged as a nationally competitive institution. Ably led by Dean Peter Pitegoff, our law school faculty is committed to placing its intellectual resources at the service of both our state and our nation.
Next time you are in need of legal advice, check to see if your lawyer has been trained at Maine Law, one of the Northeast's most distinctive law schools.
Selma Botman is president of the University of Southern Maine. She can be contacted at: