Former Law  Dean John Kramer Honored

February 24, 2002

Mary Mouton
Phone: 865-5714

Former Tulane Law School dean and professor John Kramer was recognized for outstanding public service by the American Association of Law Schools, which met in New Orleans in January. Kramer received the 2002 Deborah L. Rhode award, presented annually to a law faculty member who has made an outstanding contribution to increasing pro bono and public service opportunities in law schools through scholarship, leadership or service.

A professor of constitutional law at Tulane, Kramer served as dean of Tulane Law School from 1986 to 1996. In 1990, he implemented the first mandatory "pro bono" community service requirement for Tulane law students, a program that has since been adopted in whole or part by law schools throughout the country. Kramer expanded Tulane's clinical programs, giving students an array of choices in the public interest area.

Also, Kramer created a student loan forgiveness program that enabled graduates to accept a variety of public interest jobs despite traditionally low salaries offered for such work. The school also initiated a summer grant program that funded summer jobs with public inter-est groups.

"You have to remember that there is no third-party interest group such as Medicare or Medicaid in the legal profession to help the needy," says Kramer, who believes the students enjoy fulfilling the mandatory requirement. "After doing it they find it is a good diversion from looking at a book. It reminds them that law is about reality."

"John Kramer's vision, dedication and perseverance helped bring pro bono service into the mainstream of legal education," says Lawrence Ponoroff, dean of Tulane Law School. "His work has been an inspiration at Tulane and around the country as his 'trickle-up theory of moral obligation' became reality. It was more than 10 years ago that John instituted the country's first mandatory pro bono service requirement at Tulane. Today, more than a dozen law schools have followed his lead by establishing similar compulsory programs, and many others have come to recognize their responsibility for developing other ways to encourage pro bono work among law students."

For Kramer's part, he hopes he has helped to dispel the "bookend theory" at law schools. "The theory goes that on opening day the dean tells students that they can change the world," says Kramer. "On closing day at graduation the speaker stands up and says, 'Go out there and do good.' I believe in giving students that message in the middle."

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Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000