Message from Dean Pratt, August 19, 2020

Dear Washburn Law Alumni and Friends,

I write this note with optimism as we welcome a new class of incoming 1Ls to Washburn. When the pandemic hit the U.S. in March, it disrupted administration of the LSAT, which interrupted applications to law schools nationwide. Our applications were down 30% in April. Thankfully, LSAC created an online version of the LSAT that they call LSAT Flex so applicants to law school were able to take the LSAT in late spring and the summer to apply to law school.

We also had the support of our alumni and friends in recruiting students this year. Cynthia Heath made a generous gift to help us recruit students to Washburn. This contribution made it possible for us to give more scholarship funding than we otherwise would, which in turn nudged more students to choose Washburn for law school. Consequently, despite the pandemic, our enrollment increased 11% this year with 90 J.D. students, two transfer students, two LL.M. students and one M.S.L. student. This increase in enrollment was accompanied by an increase in the overall academic profile of the entering class and an increase in diversity. Thirty percent of our incoming students are from backgrounds that are underrepresented in the legal profession or identify with the LGBTQIA community. This year the gender diversity of the class is exactly half women and half men so we are still doing well in the recruitment of women to Washburn Law and ultimately the legal profession. This achievement is the result of a collective effort of everyone at the law school from our faculty to our marketing team, but it is primarily due to the leadership of our admissions team, Dean Preston Nicholson, Priscilla Samarripa, and Cory Payne. So, if you visit the law school, please congratulate them on a job well done.

We are also celebrating the receipt of a very generous gift to our new building campaign. The Sunderland Foundation based in Overland Park, Kansas, donated $1 million to the law school building campaign to help the law school fulfill its mission of providing a technologically advanced, state-of-the-art legal education to students attending Washburn University School of Law. This gift moves us one step closer to the plan to break ground on the new building in late April or early May 2021, so we are very grateful to the Sunderland Foundation for its support.

Although we have much to be thankful for, we have had many challenges. We worked this summer to ensure that the law school would be ready for any scenario that may arise due to the pandemic.

  • We drafted a COVID-19 reopening plan that detailed how we planned to bring employees back to campus and keep them safe and healthy through the fall semester.
  • We acquired and installed technology in every classroom so that we can broadcast every class to remote participants; this afforded students the choice of whether to participate in classes in-person or remotely.
  • We worked with the university to develop campus-wide safety protocols such as the requirement to wear a mask in all common areas on campus and to socially distance when engaging with anyone else on campus.
  • We ordered cloth masks with the Washburn Law logo and other protective equipment such as gloves and hand sanitizer.
  • We provided additional training to faculty members on how to build and teach online courses, and we purchased new software to facilitate the taking of attendance electronically so that we can record both in-person and remote attendance of students in classes.
  • We modified spaces in the law school building so that there are protective shields on workstations that interact with students and visitors, and there are signs that direct visitors how to be safe when in our space.
  • Thanks to the generosity of our Alumni Association, we purchased air purifiers for our classrooms to mitigate the risk of viral transmission during class sessions; the law school faculty is so grateful for this gift and asked that I convey their appreciation to the Alumni Association.

Presently we are holding most of our class sessions in person, but we stand ready to pivot to remote instruction if necessary. We have canceled all in-person alumni events for the fall, but we will continue to host virtual events online so please plan to drop into one of those Zoom sessions and say hello. Even though we cannot get together in person, we can continue to support one another through Zoom events. We are all in this together, and I am so thankful to be a part of the Washburn Law family during these challenging times.

Finally, I want to call your attention to the next issue of the Washburn Lawyer which will highlight Washburn Law's impact on the judiciary. Please look for this special issue of the magazine as we celebrate Washburn alumni who serve as judges. I am very proud of this issue of the magazine, and want to thank our alumni director, Karli Davis, for supervising this project and bringing it to fruition.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about the law school, please email or call. I am always happy to hear from you.

Stay well,

Carla D. Pratt
Dean and Professor of Law

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Photograph: Dean Carla D. Pratt.

Carla D. Pratt

Dean Pratt talks about the impact education has had on her life and how law has a role in shaping higher education (3:43 minutes).
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Dean Pratt talks to "TopLawSchools" about Washburn Law's student life, academics, admissions process, career opportunties, employment outcomes, and more.