Page 25 - BusinessWest March 17, 2021
P. 25

A Challenging Docket
WNEU School of Law
Continues to Meet Shifting
Needs of Students, Society
IBy Joseph Bednar
t’s been a challenging year for businesses of all kinds, and the profession of law is no exception.
But in many ways, the pandemic set the critical role of law- yers in even sharper relief, says Sudha Setty, dean of the Western New England University (WNEU) School of Law.
“I hear, anecdotally, from our alumni that they’re busy; they have
a lot of work going on. Frankly, the legal work coming out of the pan- demic is substantial,” she told BusinessWest, and it extends far beyond business disruptions.
“The pandemic has hit very unevenly in a lot of communities, including Western Massachusetts, and you have issues of trying to get unemployment benefits or ensuring against foreclosure of homes or eviction,” she noted. “A lot of legal needs have come out of all that. Those needs existed previously, of course, but the pandemic has exac- erbated them. So the need for lawyers to help in those capacities has
“I hear, anecdotally, from our alumni that they’re busy; they have a lot of work going on. Frankly, the legal work coming out
of the pandemic is substantial.”
increased exponentially in the past year.” Or take the growing (literally and figu-
ratively) field of cannabis; a course on “Cannabis and the Law” is hugely popu- lar, Setty said, because students see legal opportunities in an industry that still has plenty of room to expand.
“It’s a new field, and it’s not going away. It’s a way to think about new oppor- tunities as a lawyer, but you’re also learn- ing nuts and bolts you can apply to other fields as well, like regulatory law and how to navigate state bureaucracy and a lot of other pieces that will be helpful even if your practice isn’t in cannabis law in the long run.”
In short, the world will always need lawyers, and after a very uneven past two decades when it comes to the job mar-
        ket and law-school enrollment, colleges across the U.S. have reported an uptick in applications over the past few years, one that hasn’t been slowed by the pandemic.
WNEU welcomed an incoming class of 130 last fall, well over the 88 who started classes in the fall of 2018, Setty’s first year as dean. While the fall 2021 numbers won’t be finalized until the summer, she hears from Admissions that applications are still strong.
“Nationwide, I know most law-school applications are up signifi- cantly,” she added. “In this region, it’s up about 20%, and we’re about the same. So I feel cautiously optimistic.”
Programs she has shepherded have only made WNEU a more attractive destination — for example, the Center for Social Justice, launched in the spring of 2019, has offered a robust series of com- munity conversations, pro bono opportunities, and other initiatives aimed at giving students real-
 world experience in making a difference, even while in school.
Law School
Continued on page 26
 Sudha Setty says the field of law continues to evolve and create new opportunities, even during the pandemic.
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