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New MSU College of Law Dean Linda Greene Wants Graduates to “Make a Difference”

Michigan State University
Linda Greene

Linda Greene is the inaugural dean of the MSU College of Law following its transition from an affiliate to a Michigan State University constituent college in the summer of 2020. Dean Greene's appointment is effective June 1st of 2021.

She comes to MSU Law from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Law, where she joined the faculty in 1989 as a full professor and holds the Evjue-Bascom Professorship. She was a visiting professor at both Georgetown University Law Center and Harvard Law School. At Harvard, she was the first African American woman to teach at the law school.

“I've been in the Big Ten for three decades at Wisconsin,” says Greene. “MSU has been a big part of that Big Ten experience. The opportunity to be a law dean is so special right now. All of society's challenges and opportunities require legal intervention and legal reform, so it's a great time to be at a great law school. I was also excited to have an opportunity to do this at what I'm calling my sister institution in the Big Ten. This was a really great fit for me. My University of Wisconsin Law School experience has really prepared me to work with my colleagues to carve out a really important role for the College of Law at MSU.

“Our societal challenges require multidisciplinary approaches, and this is a new phase of growth for both the College of Law and Michigan State. I always say that the best law schools are embedded in great universities. And conversely, a university will not be truly great without an intellectually preeminent law school. I'm really excited to lead the College of Law, but I'm also excited to expand our work with other colleges at Michigan State University for our mutual benefit.”

Dean Greene describes some of the research and curricular strengths of the college.

She talks about work in innovation and entrepreneurship and the Center for Law, Technology and Innovation. Intellectual property and copyright law are also strong. And there’s the Indigenous Law and Policy Center. Greene also talks about the Immigration, Housing, and Civil Rights Law Clinics and the Geoffrey Fieger Trial Practice Institute.

Greene is a leading scholar in sports law and has done work specifically on Olympic governance. She predicts what controversies she thinks we'll be hearing about this year.

“There will be a few. There always are. One controversy is whether the Olympics will take place at all. Given the current COVID surge in Japan, my understanding is that the many thousands of workers who will be working at the Olympics will not be vaccinated. There are so many unanswered questions about whether the Olympics will take place. There have been sports competitions taking place around the world, but not on the scale of the Olympics.

“Another is whether the ban against illegal substances will be effectively enforced. That has been a serious problem during prior international competitions, especially at Sochi. Will women be barred from competition because their hormonal levels vary from what is typical in women? This involves the question whether people are allowed to choose their gender identity or whether we will approve a biological definition of womanhood for purposes of competition. This has been an ongoing issue over 10 years.”

Greene also writes and speaks on intercollegiate athletics.

“There are two big issues right now. One I think people can really understand is whether collegiate athletes will have an opportunity to share in the wealth they produce and whether they will be able to use their images and likenesses for financial gain. There's legislation in many states around the country that will permit athletes to profit from their images and likenesses. That means that if you are a popular athlete, you might be able to get a shoe deal where in exchange for an amount of money, you allow your name to be associated with an athletic shoe. That would be an example. Or you might be able to have branded apparel and then obtain profit from the sales of that apparel.”

Greene has been the chief diversity officer at two institutions - the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of California-San Diego - and is a noteworthy scholar and commentator in this area. Diversity, equity, and inclusion will shape her vision as dean of MSU Law.

“In a nation that is becoming ever more diverse, our future competitiveness and excellence as a nation, as a state, and as a university, depends upon our capacity to educate a diverse population of students. That is the only way that we are going to be able to draw on all of our talent for our creative scientific and social science advancements. I see our diversity as our future excellence, and I plan to collaborate with my colleagues at the College of Law and at MSU on a vision of excellence through diversity.”

Greene shares her short- and long-term goals for the college. She’ll work on the colleges’ accreditations from the American Bar Association and the American Association of Law Schools. 

“During the next academic year, we will complete a College of Law strategic plan. The ABA requires that we complete a strategic plan in conjunction with our self-study review. More importantly, the provost and I agreed that during my first year, we would conduct a strategic planning process so that we can identify our College of Law strategic priorities for the next 10 years. In that strategic planning process, we will be taking into account the strategic priorities of the university's strategic plan, which is close to completion. We'll also be establishing our own strategic priorities for the next decade.

“It’s really important that we recruit a more diverse cohort of students from every corner of the state, the country, and the world. This is going to be more important because the American Bar Association is considering a standard for accreditation that will focus on the diversity of the student body, staff, and faculty. Diversity is going to be not only important to our service to the state, but it's also going to be important to our success in our review process upcoming.

“We want to be sure we're providing service to every corner of the state. Some of our clinics are engaged in that enterprise, but we need to do more. I talk about making sure that the College of Law is a significant presence in our historic home in Detroit. All the way up to the Upper Peninsula, we are Michigan's law school and we need to serve all of Michigan's people. I want to work closely with our alumni. They have so much to offer to our current students. And we also want to be sure that we understand their needs and that we are supporting their development throughout the arc of their legal careers.

“Of course, a priority is to raise private money to support the College of Law. We have had some incredibly generous donors in the past. Now we need transformative financial support to retain and recruit faculty. We also need transformative scholarship support to maintain access and affordability to legal education.”

What's the state of the legal profession your graduates are entering? How have legal education and the legal profession evolved over the years? What does the future look like?

“Legal education is more important than ever. Every controversy and every challenge in which our society is embroiled has a legal dimension. From George Floyd to COVID 19 to the disputes over executive power, there are so many areas of society in which law plays an important role. This is probably one of the most important times for people to attend law school and to become lawyers.

“What are some things that have changed? The legal profession and legal education have had a number of ups and downs. We had a diminishment of demand for legal education after the crash of 2008. And then what we're now seeing is a surge in interest in legal education. It's not just an interest in the legal education of the past, but a legal education that focuses on the most important issues in society. The challenges that we face in our communities, in our country, and around the world are significant, but those challenges are fueling a much greater interest in the study of law than ever before. And the challenge of a law school is to make sure that we prepare our students to address these evermore complex problems.

“I look at legal education as the beginning of a long process in which our graduates will have to learn and re-learn and acquire new information in order to serve people effectively across a 50-year career. Many of them will practice law for 50 years or more. So how do we provide a legal education that provides a foundation not only in the areas that are currently important, but also the kind of foundation that will enable our graduates to be lifelong learners and leaders in the field of law? There's just more opportunity than ever. It’s very exciting.

“I would argue that at every stage of our country's development, law has always played an important role. It is the responsibility of the College of Law to provide the kind of legal education foundation that will not only prepare students to hit the ground running as lawyers today, but also to be leaders, policy makers, and servants throughout their careers. And those careers will extend 50 years and beyond. We've got to prepare them to serve society. And I'm so excited to have the opportunity to do that at MSU College of Law College.

“The College of Law has a history of over a century of making enormous contributions to the state. This is a new phase of the College of Law's development, and we are very excited to play not only an important role in Michigan State University's activities, but to be an important player in every place in the state. In every place, every neighborhood, every community, we want Michigan State College of Law graduates to make a difference. That's our goal.”

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