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Dean Grossman Makes List of Most Influential in Legal Education

By Lauren Ober

Claudio Grossman speaks with students

When Claudio Grossman became dean of the Washington College of Law in 1995, the world was smaller. Countries like China and India weren’t as open, the World Wide Web was in its infancy, and social media sites like Twitter and Facebook didn’t exist.

Still, Grossman and his WCL colleagues saw the rising tide of globalization and the importance of a law school curriculum that took an international view.

Nearly 20 years later, Grossman has turned WCL into a top-tier law school that embraces the complex reality that every legal topic has an international component. The majority of WCL students are exposed to more than one international law class during their time there.

“Our vision for the Washington College of Law was this: we live in a society where there is hardly anything that is just a domestic or national issue,” Grossman said. “We need to adapt to these new times where we live in a society that is increasingly impacted by globalization.”

In recognition for Grossman’s trail-breaking leadership, The National Jurist named the WCL dean to its list of the 2012 “Most Influential People in Legal Education.” Of the 25 fellow legal educators who made the list, Grossman ranked eleventh. He is in good company — also named to the list were law school deans of Duke, Wake Forest, and Georgetown.

Part of Grossman’s legacy at WCL has been the growth of experiential learning. The school’s JD and LLM students are encouraged to understand the law from a real-world perspective— taking the theoretical foundation and analytical skills learned in the classroom and applying them to the outside world.

“Law isn’t a science; it’s an art,” Grossman said. “That’s why machines don’t make decisions. We value the idea that you understand legal phenomena best through real-life clients.”

To that end, WCL offers six study abroad programs — a rarity among its institutional contemporaries. Fifty-four percent of WCL students complete part of their legal education outside of the U.S. 

Students can take summer semester-long courses in Israel, Turkey, and The Hague, among other locations. These programs are critical because they expose students to different legal and cultural traditions and give them the opportunity to see the world in a new way, Grossman said.

As for the National Jurist award, Grossman said the credit should be given to the “creative, vibrant, and exciting community” of scholars at WCL who have embraced the importance of international and experiential legal education.

“There’s a commitment to creativity and the promotion of the rule of law here,” Grossman said. “It’s nice to be recognized by your peers, particularly when you have an agenda like ours.”