Matthew Diller posing in front of a hallway of paintings
Photo by Chris Taggart
From the Dean

Passing the Torch

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since I joined Fordham Law as a junior member of the faculty. As I prepare to step down and return to teaching, my heart is full of gratitude for our outstanding community. Being a part of this institution has been a wonderful journey, and serving as dean has been a privilege and the high point of my career.

The Joys of Being Dean

The dean’s office provides a vantage point from which it is possible to see and appreciate all the elements that come together to make Fordham Law so special. Truly, the Law School is a shared project that has been nurtured over generations to create a culture that brings together care and concern for others with a commitment to rigor and excellence.

Our alumni are the bedrock of this community. Through their steadfast commitment to our mission, generosity with insights offered both to me and to our team of faculty and administrators, critically needed philanthropic support, and advocacy for our students and our school, our alumni have enabled us to build an institution that is responsive to the changing landscape of the legal profession and our world. This crucial support makes it possible for our students to launch successful careers and serve as leaders in addressing the challenges of our times. I am profoundly grateful for their collaborative spirit and deep dedication to Fordham Law over these many years.

Working with our students is a privilege beyond measure. Our students are bright, exceptionally capable, idealistic, and committed to making the future better than the present and the past. At the same time, it is a complicated world, and they are under a tremendous amount of pressure. Helping students find their paths, opening them up to the possibilities that the law holds to make our society more just and fair, and equipping them with concrete skills and tools so they are ready to enter our profession when they graduate is the most gratifying part of being dean.

These goals can only be accomplished collaboratively, and Fordham Law has assembled a superb faculty and dedicated core of administrators to get the job done. I am humbled by the brilliance of our faculty members and their unwavering commitment to rigorous and groundbreaking scholarship that expands our knowledge of the law, shapes legal debate, and sheds light on complex issues facing the legal profession and our society. They are also fantastic teachers who not only impart their knowledge and expertise every day in our classrooms, but excel at engaging students and cultivating their minds, skillfully guiding them through the intricacies of legal theory and practice and teaching the values of service. Their leadership and mentorship inspires our students to reach their highest potential as the next generation of legal professionals. When it comes to our administrators, I am awed by their devotion to solving problems and going the extra mile for our students. Together, we have weathered the unthinkable—a global pandemic that forced us to reconsider everything we knew about educating our students—and built new initiatives that are making a real and permanent positive impact at our Law School. Collaborating with our faculty and administration has been one of the pleasures of my tenure. It’s part of what made me want to be dean, and it’s something I will truly miss.

Staying True to Our Values

In today’s world, our mission is one of pressing urgency. As a law school, we are dedicated to the idea that reasoned decision-making based on principles is the way to address and solve problems. We teach the skill of engaging in reasoned analysis and argumentation while also being open to persuasion by views that may differ from our own. That’s the art of being a lawyer. At Fordham, we ground these intellectual skills in a deep commitment to justice and the promotion of human flourishing.

But the value of our discipline is being called into question. The cacophony of noise and slogans, sound bites and social media, and our increasingly limited attention spans makes it a challenge to get our methodology and set of values across. Legal reasoning is slow. It requires hard work, deep thought, and nuanced analysis based on research and knowledge. We cultivate and champion this kind of deep learning, whereas our society seems to rely on it less and less. Nonetheless, I believe we must stay committed to teaching our students the value of careful analysis and reasoned argument and decision-making because it remains the only way forward for our profession and our greater society.

Cause for Optimism

At the end of the day, I am excited about the future. I’m optimistic because of the passion and energy of our students and their deep desire to engage with the world and work for justice. I’m optimistic because of their commitment to caring for others and the institutions they are part of. And I am heartened by their eagerness to engage in the rigorous intellectual work necessary for them to have an impact and to exemplify the best in the legal profession.

As I return to the classroom as a teacher, I’m excited to experience our students’ boundless intellectual curiosity and their revitalizing spirit. Nurturing and supporting students is a mission that by its very nature looks to the future with the faith that their values, skills, and creativity will make tomorrow better than today.

I believe we must stay committed to teaching our students the value of careful analysis and reasoned argument and decision-making because it remains the only way forward for our profession and our greater society.
When I first became a member of the faculty in 1993, the Law School was in the midst of hiring a new generation of professors, and many of my colleagues who joined the faculty during that period are still here today and remain close friends. As I reach the end of my tenure as dean, we are now at a moment when Fordham Law is again going through a wave of generational renewal, and I am excited to pass the leadership of the Law School to this new generation who will carry the mantle forward.

When I think about the many new faculty members who have joined us over the past decade, I am excited about Fordham Law’s future. We have built an influential team of scholars and teachers who are shaping legal discourse and whose excellence shines through in our classrooms. I’m moved by their passion for justice and their commitment to imparting our mission of law “In the Service of Others” to our students.

Looking Ahead

Each generation of Fordham Law students, faculty, administrators, and alumni contribute in different ways to the shared goal of creating an institution that will enhance our profession and our world. I am grateful for the privilege of having led our remarkable school for a segment of its journey. Looking ahead, I could not be more thrilled about the appointment of Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Joe Landau as the new dean of Fordham Law School to lead us in our next chapter.

I believe our School will be in great hands under Joe, who brings his brilliance, energy, and enthusiasm to Fordham Law every day. I’ve worked closely with him as a colleague and have valued his counsel and leadership. He understands the DNA of Fordham Law and has the vision to carry our mission forward in a changing world. I look forward to working with Joe as a member of the faculty, and I am here to support him in any way I can.

The last thing Joe needs is my advice, but if asked, I have found that the old cliché “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” rings true. Be patient with yourself and with others, take the time to listen to your colleagues and to our students, and trust in the process. As I reflect on my time as dean, it’s the best lesson I can share about being the leader of this wonderful Law School.

Matthew Diller signature
Matthew Diller
Dean and Paul Fuller Professor of Law