W&L Law Professor Mary Z. Natkin named Assistant Dean for Clinical Education and Public Service

Lexington, VA Thursday, July 03, 2008


Mary Z. Natkin '85
Mary Z. Natkin '85, clinical professor of law at Washington and Lee University School of Law has been named Assistant Dean for Clinical Education and Public Service. In this newly created position, Natkin will oversee one of the chief initiatives of the School's new third-year curriculum: providing each student with a real law practice experience.

Natkin's duties will include oversight of all clinical and externship programs the School currently offers. She also will manage the public service component of the third-year experience, developing opportunities for students to serve the legal profession or in communities throughout the region. Public service projects may include outreach to elder citizens, assistance to homeowners facing foreclosure, or juvenile outreach through "street law" programs in local schools.

"Mary is one of those legal educators and lawyers who both commands respect and generates endearment wherever she goes," said Dean Rodney A. Smolla.  "She is tirelessly dedicated to helping students learn the art of legal counseling and advocacy by doing, she has superb judgment and leadership skills, and she is a delightful colleague.  We are fortunate that she has agreed to take on this new leadership role on behalf of Washington and Lee."

As dean, Natkin is tasked with developing a standardized curriculum and methodology for the School's clinical, externship and public service offerings. Her goal is to ensure students acquire fundamental legal skills regardless of the kind of practice experience they pursue. Natkin also will be responsible for developing new hands-on opportunities with various law firms, government agencies and public service organizations to meet the need created by requiring all third-year students to have interaction with lawyers or clients in actual practice settings.

"I'm very excited because this position puts me right at the crossroads of the great conversations going on within the bar and law schools with regard to educating lawyers and keeping lawyers happy in the profession," said Natkin. "There are many great ideas and approaches out there that are motivating us to explore our own educational goals."

Mary Natkin received her B.A. in 1979 from the University of California at Berkeley and her J.D. in 1985 from Washington and Lee. After practicing law for four years, Natkin returned to the School of Law to supervise the legal writing program and also served as an adjunct faculty member. In 1993, she became director of the Legal Practice Clinic and along with Prof. Brian Murchison started the School's Black Lung Legal Clinic. Natkin directed that clinic until 2007 when she took over the School's general externship program.

Announced in March of this year, the School's new third-year program marks a dramatic departure from traditional legal education by engaging all third-year law students in a broad array of real-world and simulated applications of legal knowledge in order to provide a bridge from the study of legal theory to the actual practice of law. More information is available at law.wlu.edu/thirdyear.

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