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Dean Simons Discusses Global Programs at St. John's Law

Michael A. Simons, Dean and John V. Brennan Professor of Law and Ethics, joined the St. John's faculty in 1998 and was appointed Dean of the School of Law in 2009.

Dean Simons teaches in the areas of criminal law and evidence, and he has been a frequent lecturer to the bench and bar on both topics. He was selected by the students as "Professor of the Year" in 2000 and 2011. From 2005 through 2008, he served as Associate Dean for Faculty Scholarship. His own scholarship has focused on sentencing, prosecutorial decision-making, and punishment theory. His articles have appeared in the New York University Law Review, the Vanderbilt Law Review, the George Mason Law Review, the Villanova Law Review, the St. John’s Law Review, The Catholic Lawyer, the Journal of Catholic Legal Studies, the Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development, and the Temple Political and Civil Rights Law Review.

Dean Simons graduated magna cum laude from the College of the Holy Cross in 1986 and magna cum laude from the Harvard Law School in 1989, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. After law school, Dean Simons clerked for the Honorable Louis F. Oberdorfer of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (1989-90). He later served as a staff attorney for The Washington Post (1990-91), as an associate at Stillman, Friedman & Shaw (1991-95), and as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York (1995-98).

Q. St. John’s School of Law has made a significant shift in the past two years toward emphasizing global perspectives in the study and practice of law.  Why do you think it is important that St. John’s law students are exposed to international or comparative law topics?

A.  There’s no question now that the practice of law – like almost everything else – has become globalized.  I hear from our alumni that law students need to be prepared to embrace the global dimensions of legal practice.  No lawyer can claim to be purely local or regional in a globalized world.

Many of our alumni whose practices involve business counseling are now counseling clients with offices or deals in other countries.  Many St. John’s alumni are also working in the field of international litigation, where they arbitrate cases on behalf of clients all over the world.   

Several alumni have served as prosecutors in cases involving transnational criminal syndicates, and one even works at the FBI specializing in interrogation of pirates captured off the Coast of Somalia.  Some alumni in private practice are finding that international treaty issues are affecting areas as diverse as family law and estate planning.  And still others are involved in human rights work, national security issues and other areas of international and national government service.  Globalization has deeply affected the ways St. John’s alumni practice law.  

Q. How do you think students can best prepare for this globalized practice?  Are there particular courses or programs that you recommend?

A.  At St. John’s, we have always been focused on training each and every student to be the best possible lawyer.  In any area of practice, a lawyer needs to have a firm command of the building blocks of U.S. law and the core professional skills – particularly good writing and oral communications skills.  

Beyond that, though, we are increasingly focused on putting students on particular paths to the profession.  In particular, we’ve created a “Pathways to International Legal Practice” plan, which guides students on how best to prepare to be, for example, an international litigator, or a government lawyer working on national security or international issues, or a corporate attorney with a focus on cross-border transactions.  To be sure, students interested in global practice should take International Law as a start.  But there are many opportunities, both in and out of the classroom, for students to develop global professional competence.

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