Picture of cubes demonstrating a network.
From the Dean

The Makings of a Leader.


hrough all the upheavals of the past few years, one of the many lessons we’ve learned is the tremendous importance of leadership. In the face of each crisis, many people rose to
meet the moment—some of whom were already established leaders, others new and from unexpected places. We could not have navigated all of these challenges without their efforts.

But what makes a good leader? And how can we build communities that are prepared to meet upcoming challenges while also keeping all of their members in mind? One of our responsibilities at Fordham Law is to train the leaders of tomorrow. Our graduates are leaders in the legal profession, as well as in business, government, and the nonprofit sector. Moreover, lawyers have a special role in our democracy and are often called upon to guide us through our most difficult issues. Thus, how we train lawyers to use their expertise and vision to inspire others and to build resilient communities and organizations is of the utmost importance.

For such a critical job, I am grateful to be part of an extraordinary community of pathbreakers and initiative-takers here at the Law School. All of us—alumni and students, faculty and staff—play a part in making our Law School the extraordinary place it is, something that could not be accomplished through individual will alone. The fact that one can be a leader from any position on an org chart by showing concern for others, developing skills, and taking initiative is made apparent to me every day through working with members of our community.

The fact that one can be a leader from any position on an org chart by showing concern for others, developing skills, and taking initiative is made apparent to me every day through working with members of our community.
Dean Matthew Diller
Photo of Dean Miller wearing blue suit.
Of course, the top of the org chart is important. Our new university president, Tania Tetlow, brings formidable leadership skills and qualities to her new role. President Tetlow joined me for a special conversation on leadership and the law for this issue (“Leading with Authenticity”). By now, you may have already come to know President Tetlow as a trailblazer—the first woman, the first layperson, and the first lawyer (!) to lead our University. And yet she brings so much more to the table. In the short time since she joined us last summer, our Law School has already benefited from all the aspects of herself that she brings to our work: a lawyer’s attention to detail, her understanding of the student experience, her empathy for all the members of our community, and her depth of faith that informs her vision for the future of higher education. I can think of no person better suited to lead Fordham and am so excited to give you all the chance to get to know her better through this conversation.

But, as I wrote earlier, the people I look up to are not just those at the head of an organization, but all of those around me who share Fordham Law’s commitment to excellence in legal education. We strive to inculcate in all of our graduates the traits that will help them make significant contributions to their workplaces and the legal field at large. This work is done through a wide variety of programs and class offerings that are fully integrated into the Fordham Law experience. While this process is outside of the traditional law school coursework, it pays huge dividends for our graduates. In (“The Leadership Lab”), you’ll meet a few of the people responsible for these innovations—as well as some of the students and alumni who are benefiting from our programs.

To see the effect of our work in this area, one need only look around at any workplace where legal skill is needed; chances are, you’ll see a Fordham lawyer hard at work to effect change. Some of those are well known to us, such as Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly ’89 (“Doing the Right Thing”) and U.S. Representative Jerry Nadler ’78 (“A More Perfect Union, One Law at a Time”). Both of these alumni have dedicated their careers to public service and inspire us all with their devotion to helping others and fighting for fairness.

Just as important are those who, while just starting their careers, are finding ways to contribute and make a difference for all of those their work touches (“Profiles in Action”). These alumni typify our aspirations for all Fordham lawyers: that they use their talents and training to serve as exemplars of the values of our profession, no matter the nature of their work or the branch of the org chart where they currently sit.

Of course, we are lucky to have an ever-replenishing font of inspirational leaders the students of Fordham Law. Each class never fails to amaze me with their passion and brilliance, both in the classroom and outside of it. One such group is the BLSA, which is marking its 50th year at Fordham. The current executive board is commemorating its golden anniversary with both celebration and reflection (“Those Who Have Come Before”). Since its founding, BLSA has been a crucial part of the fabric of our community and the source of some of our brightest leaders. If this year’s executive board is any indication, we can look forward to BLSA in particular—and the Fordham Law School community overall—to continue serving as the proving ground for leaders for many more years to come.

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