Dean Michael J. Kaufman

Dean Michael J. Kaufman

NOTE: This is an edited excerpt of an address by Dean Kaufman at the September 2021 Convocation for Santa Clara Law, held in the Mission Gardens

I believe that Santa Clara Law is not just a law school. It is a transformative learning community. How so?  

There is a great deal of learning of information in the first year and beyond—doctrines, rules, standards, language, style, customs, and techniques.  But it is transformative because here you will also develop five habits of mind and heart that serve you well no matter where your law degree takes you. 

Here you will develop a disciplined mind, achieving depth, mindfulness, thoroughness, and diligence. You will embrace ambiguity, and find simplicity on the other side of complexity.

You will develop a discerning mind, the Jesuit concept of discernment that asks us to sort fact from fiction, truth from falsehood, and reality from mythology, so that we may choose not just the good, but the greater good—what the Jesuits call “the magis” (Latin for “more” or “greater”).

You will develop a creative mind—the ability to rekindle in you the wonder of a child, to use design thinking to innovate solutions to complex problems, to ask not just why, but why not?

You will develop an ethical mind—the capacity to hold dear a set of values beyond narrow self interest and to understand and be guided by the standards of the legal profession. Your professional reputation begins now. These are not the last few years of your education, they are the first few years of your professional career. And an ethical mind is not a switch that can be turned on and off—it’s a habit of mind, a way of approaching the world.

Finally, and most importantly, you will grow a respectful mind—the disposition to listen, learn, appreciate, understand, and really see the thoughts, feelings, intentions, and life-experiences of others—especially those who appear to be different from you—so that you may respond in a helpful way. You will learn to see the world through the eyes of others—to perspective take—to be culturally competent and to avoid implicit biases with your classmates, clients, adversaries, negotiating counterparts, judges, and perfect strangers.

You will develop these five habits of mind not in a passive way, but as active, engaged, co-constructors of your own knowledge by building relationships. This transformational process is challenging. Your brain will grow measurably.

But as you have already discovered, Santa Clara is a supportive, transformative learning community, a community of faculty, administrators, staff, alumni, and community partners who are here to support you and to help you every step of the way.

In our beloved Santa Clara Law community, we are all joined together by a common creed and calling. In this garden, we are called by our Jesuit, Catholic mission to care deeply for each other—to practice cura personalis (a Latin phrase meaning “care of the whole person”)—and to use our talents and our education in the service of and with others.

As you embark upon this journey, we know that you may be feeling some stress and anxiety. Law school is challenging enough without experiencing it in the midst of a still-evolving pandemic. Many have, no doubt, offered you great advice.

Please allow me to add my perspective on achieving success and well-being in law school and beyond. The key is loving kindness. Be kind. Be kind to yourselves. Practice self care. We all get the “twisties.” Ask for help.

And be kind to others—classmates, colleagues, faculty, staff, everyone. Kindness distinguishes good lawyers from great Santa Clara lawyers like you.

Loving kindness is not just the key to your success and your well-being, it is also the key to pursuing justice. Scripture compels us: “Justice, justice shall you pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20). In the ancient Hebrew—”tzedek, tzedek, tirdof”—the word for justice is “tzedek,” which means both justice in the public sense and also acts of loving kindness. The root of justice is loving kindness. Justice begins with acts of loving kindness.

And loving kindness, of course, is founded on love. So as we send you forth on this law school journey, I want to leave you with a prediction and a promise about love. 

The prediction is that you will find love here—love for a colleague, a classmate, a client, an idea, a cause, a community,  a vocation, a calling.

The promise is that you will be loved here. You are beloved. You are loved not in a “hallmark greeting card” kind of way. You are loved in a profound “we can see the face of God in your countenance” way.

My dear students: surrounded by the warm love of our community, transformed by your legal education, and called to spread seeds of loving kindness, you will arise together from this Mission Garden and begin now to grow the future of justice.