Two hundred bucks just doesn’t go as far as it used to. According to the Clio Legal Trends Report, the average hourly rate for an attorney in the United States in 2023 was $292. Yet in the early 1930s, $200 could cover a full year of tuition at the new Boston College Law School.
Tuition aside, today’s law school would be unrecognizable to the nearly three dozen students who comprised its first graduating class in 1932 (for one thing, the student body now numbers 750). Still, like its parent, Boston College, BC Law’s mission is one of its timeless strengths, and furthering the mission is crucial to addressing all of the pressing issues that face our nation and world.
Inspired by its history and following in the footsteps of the benefactors whose legacy built the University, BC launched Soaring Higher, a new comprehensive fundraising campaign, in September 2023. This monumental $3 billion effort aims to further solidify BC’s status as the preeminent Jesuit, Catholic university in America by bolstering resources in three priority areas: financial aid, student life, and academics. The campaign also includes a goal of raising $100 million specifically for BC Law to attract and retain top-tier faculty, provide scholarships, and enhance the student experience on campus.
BC Law is one of the country’s top-ranked and most respected law schools. Yet for all of its strengths and successes, it is not without challenges. Concerns about tuition costs and debt can steer students toward schools that are not as mission-driven as BC Law and perhaps away from a career they find fulfilling. Law schools also face a lack of candidates from diverse backgrounds. The legal profession should reflect society, and diverse perspectives in the classroom are crucial for expanding worldview. In recent years, BC Law has welcomed record numbers of underrepresented and first-generation students and faculty, but there is more work to be done. Lastly, rankings continue to be a critical factor for law schools. Remaining one of the nation’s best directly correlates with having the best students and faculty, which in turn drives academic excellence as part of a virtuous circle.
“My vision is to build on BC Law’s incredible strengths and prepare the school to act as a beacon for legal education in the next century. We are a school on the move, and we are deeply committed to continuing the momentum and upward trajectory we all have worked so hard to establish.”Dean Odette Lienau
A rising tide lifts all boats and the Law School plays a critical role in helping the University accomplish its lofty aspirations. Increased philanthropic support is the only way to sustain the school’s trajectory of excellence and success. One hundred million dollars is an ambitious goal, but Odette Lienau, the inaugural Marianne D. Short, Esq., Dean and professor, believes it is achievable because of the generosity and commitment of the community.
“My vision is to build on BC Law’s incredible strengths and prepare the school to act as a beacon for legal education in the next century,” says the dean. “We are a school on the move, and we are deeply committed to continuing the momentum and upward trajectory we all have worked so hard to establish.”
Mirroring the University’s campaign priorities, BC Law is focused on financial aid, academics, and student life through Soaring Higher.
While many factors go into selecting a law school, students consistently cite financial aid as the top reason for choosing one school over another. BC Law provides financial aid to nearly 90 percent of each class.
BC Law’s latest average aid package ($23,000 per student) is lower than that of peers, making it harder to attract highly qualified students from underrepresented backgrounds, including first-generation and high-need students. Because BC’s Law’s endowment is also smaller than most peers, it contributes roughly 16 percent of the Law School’s financial aid budget, with the remainder coming from the University operating budget.
The BC Law community has fueled much-needed growth in this area, more than doubling the number of endowed scholarships in the past two decades. Yet the need remains to catch up to better-resourced peers by strengthening BC Law’s financial position and fulfilling its commitment to access.
With increased support, BC Law can expand access for deserving students, fund meaningful scholarship, and live up to its mission of forming the next generation of lawyers serving the greater good.
As a part of a holistic approach to legal education, BC Law offers robust opportunities for students to engage with experts and explore the legal profession outside the traditional classroom.
Some of the school’s greatest impact is led through institutes, programs, and initiatives, including the Center for Experiential Learning; the Innocence Program, which helps free the wrongly imprisoned; the Rappaport Center for Law & Public Policy; the Program on Innovation & Entrepreneurship; and the Initiative on Land, Housing & Property Rights.
The last is helmed by Robert F. Drinan, SJ, Professor of Law Thomas Mitchell, who joined BC Law in 2022. Overwhelmingly, what attracts outstanding faculty to BC and keeps them here are endowed professorships, such as Professor Mitchell’s. Dean Lienau was recruited from Cornell, and the University writ large has brought in faculty from schools such as Harvard, Princeton, and New York University—including BC’s first Nobel Prize winner in the Carroll School of Management.
BC Law faculty are more than instructors—they are researchers and clinicians, mentors and drivers of the formative education that helps students develop not only intellectually, but also personally, ethically, and spiritually. Simply put, the more BC is able to invest in faculty, the richer the student experience can become and the more academically competitive it will be.
The Soaring Higher campaign will carry this tremendous momentum forward, allowing the University to add top talent while creating mission-driven resources to support the intersection of ideas and opportunity.
Sometimes, the decision to attend a particular law school is based not on numbers or rankings, but rather on how it makes you feel. It’s true that, for many graduates, BC Law still feels like home. Here they are challenged to excel and become the best version of themselves, yet still be part of a community committed to warmth and belonging for all its members.
Newton Campus is unique as a peaceful setting that is still so close to a major global city, creating inherent advantages. It offers what today’s students want their law school experience to be: inspiring and supportive of serious focus, while at the same time evoking that sense of community.
Improvements to academic buildings and gathering spaces—as well as enhancements to student life programs and opportunities inside and outside the classroom—will augment the overall well-being of the student body at BC Law.
Philanthropic support through Soaring Higher is critical to maintaining BC Law’s reputation as one of the most caring communities in the nation. It also boosts the school’s competitiveness and excellence; fosters a rich, vibrant campus that is strengthened by its diversity of experiences and perspectives; and ultimately increases the value of a BC Law degree for all alumni.
Past, Present, and Future
Every step of Boston College’s transformation has only been possible because of the visionaries and benefactors who saw the promise of where it stands now. Our world today desperately needs people of intelligence, compassion, and commitment to work for the good of society, to help root out racial, social, and economic inequality, and to strive to end poverty, ignorance, and prejudice. It needs top lawyers trained in BC’s Jesuit tradition of service to others—recognizing the equal dignity of all and finding meaning in work. Soaring Higher will ensure that more of them are able to be here.
BC Law’s future is full of promise and possibility, and it is animated by many strengths and advantages: Jesuit, Catholic heritage; talented, committed faculty and staff; and vibrant, caring institutional culture. As the school approaches its 2029 centennial, it faces an exciting opportunity to highlight its legacy and strengths and to harness the potential of this celebratory moment. The possibilities are limitless and your support will help write the next chapter for BC Law.