Taking the Initiative


Fordham Law’s financial aid offerings are on the rise.

Fordham Law School is committed to attracting a talented and diverse student body, but nationally the number of students applying to law school has decreased significantly. Fordham is now competing with other top schools for the best and brightest future lawyers, and financial aid is a critical factor in student decisions. The Law School is responding with ambitious plans to increase scholarship offerings and remain competitive with its peers.

To keep the Fordham Law community as economically diverse and academically selective as possible, Dean Matthew Diller has launched the Dean’s Scholars Initiative. The campaign aims to raise $25 million in scholarship funds by June 30, 2019.

“The challenge of financial aid and student debt is a matter of great urgency,” Diller says. “We must continue to attract and retain the most talented students—the next generation of lawyers who will work hard to solve real human problems. At the same time, we must maintain our commitment to helping those deserving students who could not otherwise afford to attend Fordham Law.”

The Law School has already been improving its financial aid offerings; it now awards three times the amount of aid it did seven years ago, and fully half of Fordham Law students receive some form of financial aid. Still, much work needs to be done, and support from alumni and friends is critical.

The Dean’s Scholars Initiative will pump $15 million into an immediate impact scholarship fund over five years. That adds up to $10,000 in additional financial aid for each of 300 students annually. The remaining $10 million will go to the endowment, an investment that can be tapped as a steady source of permanent funding for years to come. Gifts of any size will benefit the initiative; endowed gifts start at $100,000.

Already Fordham Law alumni have heeded the call for support. Brad Butwin ’85, Chair of O’Melveny & Myers LLP, is chairing the financial aid initiative and understands its importance.

“I owe much of who I am as a lawyer and person to Fordham Law. The School created a nurturing environment for learning; what made this learning even more interesting was the diverse student population,” he says. “A powerful and important advantage for the next generation of lawyers is the strength that comes from more diverse and inclusive teams. Through its scholarship initiative, Fordham will continue to foster this important diversity. I ask all alumni to support this important initiative and give back to the School that helped them reach their professional goals.”

Speaking from personal experience, Susheel Kirpilani ’94, Partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, can attest to the transformative nature of a Fordham Law education, and this is why he too has decided to contribute to the initiative.

“I was a kid from Queens who went to a local college and had absolutely no connections in the world,” he says. “Fordham put me on the map and gave me entrée to top law firms, which ultimately led to working on some of the most exciting and important cases in the country. I want to be able to ensure that future generations have the same opportunity Fordham gave me.”

Stephen Brown, Fordham Law’s Assistant Dean of Enrollment, says the new scholarships will give Fordham Law what amounts to a sales edge in the current heavily discounted environment of modern law school admissions. Students today examine schools with a more critical consumer eye than he’s ever seen in his 29 years with academia, a natural response to the state of the changing job market.

“We’re looking for smart people who want to be part of a community, who want to be involved and give back to the Fordham network,” says Brown. “This financial aid initiative will help those types of students decide to enroll. This lets us give the right
students the right amount of money that they need.”

The Law School’s Financial Aid Office gives need-based and merit-based scholarships, but these function differently. The need-based packages may be awarded in conjunction with merit awards and are designed to assist students who come from families with special economic challenges. Importantly, merit-based scholarships at Fordham are guaranteed for all three (or four) years, in contrast with other schools that practice what some perceive as a classic bait-and-switch maneuver.

“The schools will recruit students by giving aid to most of the students, and  then only renewing the top half or third,” says Brown. “That way they save their budgets. We respect our students too much to operate like that. We figure students are already competing for grades, so they don’t need to be competing with each other over who gets to keep a scholarship and who doesn’t.”

Brown asserts the challenges of the current state of admissions, but he truly believes in the opportunities Fordham provides. “We treat our students as they deserve to be treated, because our graduates get good jobs. Fordham students are just as smart as students at other top law schools, but they have different personalities,” he says. “They are committed to our community—our network—and the communities in which they live. They’re in touch with the real world and in touch with themselves. We take the long-term approach to our future alumni. We want a lifelong relationship.”

It’s a relationship that Dean Diller is also cultivating. He knows that an outstanding student body serves as the focal point for the Law School, and he knows that the School can’t achieve that point without the help of the greater community.

“During my first term as Dean, the Dean’s Scholars Initiative is the most critical fundraising priority,” he says. “We are asking for your continued support so that we can do justice for our students, who will in turn work for justice for every one of us.”


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