The nexus of legal and entrepreneurial considerations is an increasing institutional focus but one that has always been present in the function of society. Dean G. Marcus Cole, the incoming eleventh Dean of Notre Dame Law School, has underscored this concept when describing the origin of his motivation to practice law. As a lawyer, he hoped to assist local entrepreneurs in launching small businesses to further the development of the low-income community in which he was raised. Dean Cole aims for the law school not to rely on antiquated practice but to instill law students with entrepreneurial ingenuity and responsiveness to an evolving legal landscape.
Notre Dame prides itself on cultivating a different kind of lawyer but this philosophy could be construed as an implicit statement about the impression many have with respect to the current practice of law. Perception is largely based on personal experience and countless individuals have had negative interactions with legal counsel in the early stages of formation. However, there are those who have persisted to succeed. Stephen M. Griesemer is a Notre Dame Law School graduate who left his practice at a leading global law firm to help run his family’s business in Missouri. After returning to legal practice, he then left again to form a thriving private equity firm in Chicago. He maintains a close relationship with the university and continues to guide students to think beyond the functional aspects of the challenges they are presented with in corporate representation. Understanding the value of this perspective has the potential to create significant opportunities.
The fortitude required in executing a venture often derives from more than knowledge but a passion to see a vision realized. Michael L. Cioffi, a Notre Dame alum and partner at an international law firm, has specifically cited this desire as the driving force behind the creation of Monteverdi in the Val d’Orcia. More than a boutique hotel and potential revenue stream, he sought to restore a place that would honor the purpose and heritage of the region. It took years to develop but Monteverdi now flourishes with an Artists and Scholars in Residence program and the shining village on a hill he envisioned has come to fruition.
As an entrepreneur who has considered pursuing an education in law, it’s refreshing to see so many people within the legal community considering how to change perceptions. I can see how it would be easy to sit inside an echo chamber and say “we’re misunderstood and there’s nothing we can do about it,” but that wouldn’t help anyone.
Some attorneys have made great strides in connecting with the entrepreneur community in a friendly, low-pressure way using platforms like YouTube. It’s exciting to see people like Dean Cole come in to such a prestigious organization and have a vision filled with such humility. It will only serve to instill excellent values into the next generation of legal students.