Writing for the Rhode Island Bar Journal, Assistant Attorney General Michael W. Field '97 reflects on RWU Law's 20 years of profound impact upon state legal culture.

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Field '97 on 20 Years of RWU Law

Writing for the Rhode Island Bar Journal, Assistant Attorney General Michael W. Field '97 reflects on RWU Law's 20 years of profound impact upon state legal culture.

From the RHODE ISLAND BAR ASSOCIATION JOURNAL: "Roger Williams University School of Law: Twenty Years of Enhancing Rhode Island’s Culture' by Michael W. Field [RWU Law '97] 

Jan/Feb. 2014: Waterfire Providence, Sept. 2013, celebrating RWU Law's 20th AnniversaryFew can doubt Rhode Island’s rich legal history.

Three hundred fifty years ago, England granted the colony a charter premised on a then-novel rule of religious freedom and the separation between church and state.  A little more than one hundred years later, in 1786, the [Rhode Island Supreme Court] issued its opinion in Trevett v. Weeden, [...] one of the first (if not the first) cases where a state court declared an act of its legislature unconstitutional – preceding Chief Justice Marshall’s opinion in Marbury v. Madison by seventeen years.

While certainly not on par with the granting of the Charter or the legal principle enunciated in Trevett, this year marks the 20th Anniversary of the opening of the Roger Williams University School of Law. 

In the inaugural edition of the Roger Williams University Law Review, Chief Justice Joseph R. Weisberger [...] wrote that “[t]he mission of a law school is not just to educate persons who wish to become members of the bar, but also to contribute to and enhance the legal culture of every jurisdiction which the law school touches.”  Since its inception, the law school has delivered on the Chief Justice’s vision. 

The law school has served as a forum for among the most important issues facing Rhode Island during the past two decades. [...]

The speakers offered through the law school have further enriched our legal community and indeed our State. [...]

[...] arguably one of the greatest daily contributions offered by the law school are its clinical programs and its recently renamed Feinstein Center for Pro Bono and Experiential Education.  The Pro Bono Collaborative, a signature program in the Center, matches law students, attorneys/law firms, and community organizations that serve low-income persons in need of pro bono legal services and has been recognized across the country as a model for pro bono collaboration.  [...]

The law school’s clinical experiences [...] provide similar “real life” supervised learning experiences for students while also serving the needs of the community.  [...]

Although the community based efforts described above fulfill Chief Justice Weisberger’s vision, at its core a law school’s mission is to provide a forum for legal discussion and the advancement of the rule of law. [...]

As Rhode Island commemorates the School of Law’s 20th Anniversary, many accomplishments will be recognized and remembered and it should not be lost on anyone that all of these accomplishments (and the ones to come) are the result of the efforts of many students, alumni, faculty, lawyers, jurists, and other community leaders; some of whom are widely known and others who prefer less recognition for their efforts. 

While all of these accomplishments are individually significant, perhaps the greatest collective accomplishment is the one envisioned by Chief Justice Weisberger in the inaugural law review.  [...] After all, it is the mere fact that we are able to debate these important issues amongst ourselves and contribute to our community in a civil and intelligent manner that leads to an “enhance[d] legal culture.”

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