September 22, 2017
I am so thrilled to be writing as the new Dean for Social Justice Initiatives at Columbia Law School. This is my third week at CLS, and I’m amazed at the welcome I have received: the excitement of students, faculty and administrators at my arrival, and their appreciation of the SJI office, their commitment to public interest and social justice, and their willingness to partner with me as SJI embarks on its next phase. I feel so fortunate to have such strong support from the community and I am eager to build upon this strong foundation.
Under my leadership, it is my hope that SJI will continue to be the public service bedrock for students and alumni that it has been over the last 20 years. SJI provides information, guidance and support to students and alumni who are interested in incorporating public service into their careers–no matter what form that takes–in a wide range of sectors and through a variety of legal strategies. SJI will continue to strongly serve this base. SJI serves an important ‘force multiplier’ role in shaping our next generation of lawyers, in partnership with other stakeholders like faculty, Centers, and administration at CLS, as well as our graduates. This is a crucial role that we will also continue to play.
In addition, I hope to shape a broad vision for students and alumni of what they can accomplish with their CLS degrees, and to demonstrate the many exciting opportunities for social justice that await them, no matter which path they take to get there. I hope to establish some new initiatives for SJI through building stronger partnerships with many constituencies, through new programs, and through broadening our vision of what 21st century lawyering looks like, to be inclusive of a myriad of experiences and to include less traditional legal careers or less traditional public interest paths.
My career working in a variety of sectors and using a wide range of legal tools–in addition to spending 10+ years at SJI–will be instrumental in shaping this vision. Additionally my recent experience leading key components of a successful Supreme Court strategy will also inform my approach, as it demonstrated how different types of lawyers, legal institutions and advocates can work together to achieve social justice in a campaign-style approach. This is an important lesson in building bridges between the public and private sectors, and to encourage recognition of the unique contribution that each lawyer can play.
I am now engaging on a “listening tour” over the next few weeks, soliciting the insights and ideas of many stakeholders about SJI. Please feel free to contact me at [email protected] if you have any ideas, concerns or anything else you would like to share.
I look forward to partnering with you on this journey to serve the CLS community and to pursue social justice more broadly.
Erica Smock, Assistant Dean and Dean for Social Justice Initiatives