A Conversation with Robert Rubinson, Director of the University of Baltimore School of Law’s Online Post-J.D. Certificate in Family Law Program

Why were you excited to take on the leadership of the Post-J.D. Certificate in Family Law?

I participated in the early planning meetings with the practitioner advisory workgroup, and I’ve seen the commitment of those attorneys, the program faculty, and Professor Babb as the founding director. I’m amazed at what they’ve achieved with this program. In my own teaching, I’ve always been focused on serving not only students, but also practitioners and clients, so this was an opportunity to pursue those priorities.

It’s wonderful to draw on the expertise of the family law community in Baltimore and our region, and to incorporate their insights into the training of lawyers who want to pursue family law. The Post-J.D. Certificate in Family Law has an incredible and immensely committed faculty, and the program provides students with a depth of knowledge or the area, practice insights and mentorship. I see my job as incoming director as supporting what’s already there, enhancing it where possible, and working to extend the program’s reach so that more students can take advantage of this amazing opportunity.

How does this program fit in with the primary areas of focus in your teaching and scholarship?

At the root of my work in professional responsibility and mediation is an interest in ensuring that clients are well served by the attorneys they retain. The certificate program in the end is about ensuring that clients get effective representation in a vital practice area, where the issues are deep, complex, personal, and often affect children.
By design I’ve been a generalist. I have explored many different areas of practice because when you’re immersed in one segment, sometimes you begin to think that’s all that the practice of the law is. I’ve deliberately gone into different areas in my own practice—from working at a large firm in New York to being a legal aid lawyer in Brooklyn, New York representing the elderly. And teaching has taken me into different areas too, including family law.

From all of those experiences, I have come to believe that being an effective lawyer is not just about being an advocate in the conventional sense. It’s about applying therapeutic jurisprudence and working with clients as whole people, and families as a set of human beings. That cuts across all sorts of practice areas. That’s why I love alternative dispute resolution, which is about letting go of the win/lose, competitive mindset that’s at the heart of so much in our culture, and finding constructive, productive ways to serve people more fully in resolving conflicts.

I’m glad this program will continue to be affiliated with the Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts, and I’m looking forward to working with the Center.

As incoming director, do you have any insights to share with attorneys who may be considering enrolling in this program?

As an online program designed for working professionals, this certificate falls into the long University of Baltimore educational tradition of providing access to a whole range of students, including evening students and students coming into law as a second profession.

For an attorney considering different avenues of professional development and who is interested in family law, this program should be at the top of your list. The university as a whole is student focused, and the feedback we’ve gotten from students is that their experience participating in the program is phenomenal. It’s taught by distinguished practitioners who are not only great lawyers, but great teachers. This program carries forward the focus we bring to our clinical program, that thinking like a lawyer should be about being empathetic and recognizing that people are more than just a legal problem.
Professional responsibility has been a particular focus of mine, and to me professional responsibility is not only about the specialized ethical problems that lawyers encounter. It’s about the broader sense of responsibility that lawyers should bring to clients, to the profession, and to society at large. It also builds on my interest in alternative dispute resolution, because you’re looking at serving people not just in a legal sense but in a more holistic way. That is being professionally responsible.

The certificate program is an opportunity to educate and enable practitioners to do their jobs well, which is good for them individually and professionally, and extends to the community at large. The consequences of excellent lawyering reverberate out into all sorts of places. That’s pretty special.

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