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Attorneys of the Year: Eric Janus

recognition-for-outstanding-serviceNot everyone who receives an Outstanding Service to the Profession Award may point to a large building on St. Paul’s most important street as Exhibit A, but Eric Janus can.

That would be Mitchell Hamline School of Law, the product of the merger of William Mitchell College of Law and Hamline University School of Law, which started under Janus’ watch.

The merger and the accreditation by the American Bar Association of the school’s hybrid program are the pinnacles of Janus’ academic career, which began in 1984 when he became the school’s clinical director. He stepped down as dean in 2015 to return to teaching and scholarship.

Janus sees the hybrid program as returning to the roots of William Mitchell College of Law, which started life offering only evening classes.  The program combines online education with time at the school and is the first online JD program approved by the ABA.

It was born when it became apparent that night classes weren’t meeting all the needs of putative students. The faculty and administration started to think about reinvigorating the mission and the idea of making the school accessible online took root, Janus said.  Now, the program has its third entering class and the enrollment is at capacity.

The merger of the law schools was the work of a lot of people over many years, with both institutions motivated by the synergy of strong similar complementary programs, Janus said.

Janus thought about the mission and what was distinctive about Mitchell — the school’s soul — in order to strengthen the school’s reputation. “I was interested in creating a culture of respect and integrity. The school respects the profession and the students, and we understand the students are transforming themselves. We’re not holding ourselves at a distance or being cynical about what we’re doing,” he said.

That’s also an apt description of Janus, who is now returning to teaching and his other career passion — protecting the legal rights of the mentally ill. In all these ways, Janus has made an outstanding service to the legal profession.

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