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Kathryn R.L. Rand, Published May 15 2013

Letter: UND law school is grateful

On Friday, May 3, many of us at the University of North Dakota School of Law stayed late to watch the afternoon and evening sessions of the North Dakota Legislature. After the Senate voted to pass SB 2003, which includes state funding for a much-needed renovation and addition to our law school building, we let out a collective cheer. After the House voted to pass SB 2003, we cheered again, and then rushed over to our Class of 2013 graduation banquet to share the great news with our newest graduates and their families. UND President Robert Kelley announced the Legislature’s vote on higher education funding to an even wider audience at our commencement ceremony the following morning. What a fantastic weekend for the School of Law!

A week ago, Gov. Jack Dalrymple traveled to Grand Forks to sign a commerce bill into law and to hold a news conference on the University of North Dakota campus. Many of our local legislators attended. During the event, the governor also highlighted the law school’s building project. Our school turned out in full force to thank our state officials for this $11.4 million investment in the law school’s future, just part of the extraordinary support for UND and higher education. What a great day for our university, community and state!

We could not have accomplished this historic turning point for the School of Law without the support of many, many people. We owe a debt of gratitude to the state’s higher education leaders, our alumni and friends in the bench and bar, the governor’s office, and the Legislature.

The university, the North Dakota University System chancellor and the state Board of Higher Education saw the need to ensure continued excellence in legal education at North Dakota’s law school for decades to come.

Our state and federal judges and our State Bar Association know that the School of Law is an indispensable part of North Dakota’s legal profession, and that well-educated lawyers are necessary to support economic development and to sustain a just society.

Our state legislators on the Senate Appropriations Committee, the House Appropriations Committee, and the Conference Committee appreciated the growing legal needs throughout North Dakota – especially in western counties and rural areas – and the School of Law’s role in providing practice-ready lawyers to serve all the critical legal needs in our state.

In particular, Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, and Rep. Bob Skarphol, R-Tioga, worked together to achieve passage of SB 2003 – an outstanding “real world” lesson in the power of cooperation for our law students serving as legislative interns in Bismarck.

We are grateful for the tireless work of all of our state elected and appointed officials – legislative, executive and judicial – and their staffs. They are public servants in the best sense of the word – people who serve the public while standing to the duties and responsibilities of public office. We especially appreciate the lawyers who serve our state, as they are role models for our students in fulfilling the special obligations of the legal profession to uphold and improve the law as the foundation of our government.

We know that North Dakota’s investment in the School of Law’s building renovation and addition is not merely funding for our physical facility. We know that it signifies confidence in the talent of our students, the skill of our faculty, the dedication of our staff, and the direction of our leadership. More importantly, we know that the state’s investment includes implicit expectations – expectations that we will maintain an excellent and affordable program of legal education, that we will graduate practice-ready lawyers with the skill set to serve as ethical and innovative leaders in the legal profession in our communities, that we will provide service and scholarship that address the most pressing legal issues in our state and nation.

On behalf of all of us at North Dakota’s law school, thank you.

Rand is the dean and Floyd B. Sperry Professor of Law at the University of North Dakota School of Law, Grand Forks.