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Dominic Dutra, Santa Clara University Law School
by Rebecca Neely
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Active in journalism in high school, Dominic has held the position as Editor-In-Chief of The Advocate for a year and a half. He has worked extremely hard with the staff to take the paper in new directions.
''I was interested in writing for and eventually running The Advocate, pretty much from the first meeting I attended for the paper,'' he said in an interview. ''It has been extremely rewarding to take my vision and to literally enable it to materialize. At the same time, I am trying to advance The Advocate into a publication and organization with strong alumni roots and respect and legitimacy that can continue to thrive and progress for many years after I graduate.''
''Being a part of The Advocate has helped me to develop my management and administrative skills. Though we do cover legal matters, organizing the meetings, creating and holding people to deadlines – while simultaneously motivating them to meet the deadlines – has given me an experience that is similar to running a business and managing employees. Though we may not put out daily issues, the paper does run like a business would, with delegated responsibilities, budgets, deadlines, and quasi-employees. The only real difference is that my staff and editors do not get paid for the work they do, so finding incentive and motivation to attract new staff and to expand the reach of the paper is a constant challenge, much like it would be in any other marketplace.''
Dominic is extremely pleased with his choice of Santa Clara Law. ''I originally chose Santa Clara Law because of its considerable reputation in the San Francisco Bay Area, and its close ties to Silicon Valley and many of the tech businesses which, to a large degree, now drive commerce in the United States. It is a fantastic institution for prospective students who are interested in pursuing careers as intellectual property lawyers.''
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''Beyond IP, SCU's faculty is staffed by many brilliant professors who have clerked for and argued before the United States Supreme Court on several issues spanning the gamut of the law. Though our US News Rankings may not reflect it, the brilliant people here inspire me on a daily basis and challenge me in a way that I could not expect any other institution to exceed. Santa Clara Law students and professors do, and will continue to affect law and policy both locally and nationally, and I have been lucky to sit side by side with and learn from them over the last few years.
Dominic commented on the biggest challenges he sees facing law students today. ''In the present economy, it's the job market. We are facing an age where the cost for three years of law school will reach six digits for most students, and these students and their mountain of debt are unable to find jobs that provide an adequate return on their investment. As has been described in many major news outlets over the past year or two, law school has ceased to be a good investment for most people. When I accepted my offer to attend Santa Clara Law, the reported average salary for graduating students of the previous year's class was more than $90k. Right now I can count the number of students I know who will graduate with that kind of salary on one hand. The legal market is simply over saturated with experienced attorneys, and there is no incentive for companies to pay associate level fees for attorneys with little or no experience.''
With competition so fierce, how does this translate to students' motivation? While Dominic said he is consistently inspired by his fellow classmates at Santa Clara, he also expressed some concern about what he described as ''a bit of a loss of character, opinion and personal integrity that I see developing at school. I feel I'm seeing many of my peers selling themselves out to find a job/career. I recognize the state of the legal market, and the dearth of positions available for new graduates in both the private, public and non-profit realms. However it concerns me greatly that my peers seem to have taken on a philosophy of finding a job 'at any cost.' I just do not wish to see our generation of attorneys and eventual lawmakers to concede their personal convictions with such ease, when these same people will be building the future law and policy of this country. Personal integrity is something that every one of us should fight to uphold, regardless of the cost or benefit awaiting at the end of the tunnel. It is perhaps THE most significant freedom that our profession is designed to uphold.''
Dominic also commented on the biggest challenges he feels the legal profession is facing as a whole. ''There has been a lot of talk that the partnership model for law firms is no longer viable and will require some significant changes moving forward. As a whole, the legal profession is beginning to face a massive challenge based on the increasingly exorbitant costs of law school, and the relative inability for most firms to compensate new associates to a level that will justify undertaking the enormous debt required for a legal education. The model as we know it needs a significant change in order for the profession to remain as viable as it has been over the last thirty years.''
''Though I am under no illusions of the complications involved, I do strongly believe that reform is needed in both legal education and in the traditional private firm model. While I don't want to make assumptions, I think that third year law students would almost universally agree that their third year in law school does not benefit their education through the classroom. Budding attorneys would be much better served by a third year that consists of full-time internships, clerkships or other practical experience which will better enable them to make contributions to their employers immediately upon graduation. A third year in school filled with electives, lightly-graded classes, and pass/no-pass deferments comes nowhere close to approaching the value of a year of legitimate, skill-building, real-life experience.''
Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located in California's Silicon Valley, offers its more than 8,000 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, plus master's, Ph.D., and law degrees. Distinguished nationally by the fourth-highest graduation rate among all U.S. master's universities, California's oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice.
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