In his 31 years as a law school dean, Rudy Hasl has seen it all.
The current obstacles facing legal education, including declining law school applications and an attack on the value of a law degree, are no different than any other, he said.
"I've seen all the dire predictions throughout the years, most of which evaporated as soon as the economy turned," Hasl said. "The law degree as form of training still endures as a valuable investment."
Hasl, who has been the dean of Thomas Jefferson School of Law since 2005, said it's wrong for critics to focus on the employment statistics of students nine months after graduation.
"That can't be the measure of success for a law school program," he said. "You have to look at the lifetime of activities for graduates. Some of our most successful graduates now would say they had to struggle during their early years in order to find the right kind of opportunity."
In order to prepare his students for the best opportunities, Hasl has continually upgraded the school's offerings. One of the more recent programs he's added focuses on teaching law firm management skills, since many of the school's graduates go on to join small-sized firms or start solo practices.
TJSL also offers an online international tax law program for members of the workforce looking to enhance their careers in the tax industry.
Additionally, the school is partnering with China, Russia and Brazil to provide lawyers in those countries with a two-week orientation to the American legal system. TJLS has plans to add India as well.
"If we have lawyers with foreign training in residence (here) and students in the J.D. program get the opportunity to interact with them, it's just a mind expanding opportunity for our J.D. students," Hasl said.
TJSL also is developing a program with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Environmental Law Institute to do training with lawyers in Brazil, focusing on a range of environmental protection issues facing that country.
"I think those specialized outreach efforts have really been successful in bringing us highly qualified students," Hasl said. "I think we made some strategic decisions three to five years ago that really have helped the school immensely. I think the school is just radically transformed from what we were in the Old Town area."