Monthly Archives: August 2012

School introduces new parent, spouse newsletter

In an effort to better connect families to their students’ experiences in law school, earlier this year Florida Coastal School of Law launched Coastal CURRENTS — a monthly newsletter exclusively for parents and spouses.

According to the latest figures, approximately 225 parents and spouses have signed up to receive information about upcoming events, important deadlines, and other items of interest to law students and their loved ones.

“Realizing parents and other family members want to be involved and informed, we knew we needed to create a platform for them to regularly receive the information we can share,” said Brooks Terry, director of marketing and communications for the law school.

“Additionally, we understand families often play significant roles in helping students make a number of important choices, including which classes to take, how much money to borrow, and how to spend their summers wisely. We wanted to bring them in and make them as informed as we possibly can.”

Florida Coastal School of Law is not alone in its exploration of ways to include and involve parents in their students’ lives without violating privacy regulations. Higher education conferences around the country have addressed ways to draw more parents and spouses into the fold, as trends have shown families — parents in particular — remain highly influential throughout the student experience.

“To ignore that highly engaged audience is unwise,” Terry said.

Terry added each newsletter’s open rates — the number of times a subscriber elects to read it — hovers much higher than the industry high of 14.5 percent. Coastal CURRENTS emailed newsletters, he said, have an open rate of more than 50 percent.

As the first year of Coastal CURRENTS comes to a close, he said it is in the process of being refined even further. By next year, he said families will receive newsletter editions that are tailor-made for their student’s year of study at Florida Coastal School of Law.

“This was a pilot year for us,” Terry said, “and as pleased as we are with the results, we want to continuously improve and make the newsletter as targeted and strategic as we can. Each year in law school presents an entirely new set of opportunities and challenges, so we have to be effective, we have to be current — no pun intended.”

Parents and spouses can sign up to receive Coastal CURRENTS at

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Appellate courtroom renamed in honor of landmark gift

Illustration by Karen Kurycki

Florida Coastal School of Law’s appellate courtroom has been named The Martha and Irving Sonnenschein Appellate Courtroom following a generous donation from one of the law school’s earliest advocates.

Irving Sonnenschein, a 92-year-old attorney living in Manhattan, put seed money toward the school when it was first established and has stayed in touch with its leadership over the years. In memory of his wife, Martha, Sonnenschein made a $250,000 endowed scholarship gift to the school that will generate scholarships for students for years to come. In honor of his gift and his appreciation for the accomplishments of Coastal Law’s nationally ranked Moot Court team, the appellate courtroom will be renamed in his honor and in memory of his wife, Martha.

“My wife was interested in Florida Coastal because she thought it was interesting to see how this law school had grown from a thought in the minds of unrelated people to this building with people and professors and students — the school came to mean a lot to her,” Sonnenschein said. “When she died, I thought it would be something she would appreciate — to name the moot courtroom after her and me, that’s why I did it.”

Sonnenschein has been practicing law, primarily real estate law, for more than 70 years. He received his degree from Columbia Law School in New York City. Sonnenschein is a member of the New York State Bar and was a longtime partner in Sonnenschein Sherman & Deutsch LLP. His wife, Martha, passed away three years ago.

The Florida Coastal School of Law Foundation’s scholarship committee is in the process of advertising for applicants, and the school hopes to make its first-ever fund distribution to students before summer’s end. The scholarship will be given annually to students who exhibit leadership in legal education through their academics and extracurricular activities — including law review, pro bono service, mock trial and moot court participation.

The school’s moot court team, which has consistently maintained a top ranking, this year ahead of schools like Columbia and Duke universities, is an example of what Florida Coastal is doing right to prepare students for success in the legal field, according to Sonnenschein. Many prestigious law schools around the country have historically lacked a focus on gaining practical courtroom experience prior to graduation, Sonnenschein said.

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“One of the problems with many law school educations — at least when I went to law school 70 years ago — is that you didn’t get much practical experience; you did not get the equivalent of what a doctor gets in an internship,” Sonnenschein said. “The moot court does give you at least some of that — the moot court experience is an important part of learning to become a lawyer.”

Margaret Dees, director of institutional advancement for Florida Coastal, said the courtroom name and scholarship are a gratifying “statement of approval for what we do and how we do it.”

“It is an amazing gift for such a young school to get such a generous donation,” Dees said. The fact that Sonnenschein has no Jacksonville connection with the exception of his initial gift speaks well for the school and its accomplishments. “It feels good that somebody thought well enough of what we’re doing here and how we’re doing it that they’re willing to support the school’s future at this level.”

Florida Coastal officials hope to host Sonnenschein on campus in the coming year to meet students and faculty. Sonnenschein also is expected to play a lead role in selecting scholarship recipients.

“You don’t get gifts like this unless you’re doing something right,” Dees said. “It is even more special that it comes from someone who didn’t go to school here and has decades of experience practicing law, but could see the quality of the work and lawyers we are producing.”

To directly support Florida Coastal student scholarships, make your gift online now.

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Alumni class notes, Summer 2012

Have you recently started a new job? Moved to a new city? Had an impromptu reunion with another Coastal Law graduate? Let us know so we can spread the word. E-mail the Alumni Association at 1999 • Scott Kinlaw has been working as the Administrator of a private Christian K-12 academy in Jacksonville, Florida since March 2000. • Ravi […]

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School receives Equal Justice Award from Legal Aid

The Jacksonville legal community recognized Florida Coastal School of Law in early 2012 for its dedication to representing citizens in all income brackets. Jacksonville Area Legal Aid honored the school with the 2011 Robert J. Beckham Equal Justice Award.

Jacksonville Area Legal Aid presented the award during its annual gathering in January, which highlights local organizations’ and individuals’ pro bono work for the legal aid community. On hand to receive the award were Coastal Law Dean Peter Goplerud, Vice Dean Terri Davlantes and Professors Laura Boeckman, Ericka Curran and Karen Millard, director of the school’s pro bono program.

Michael Freed, Jacksonville Bar Association president and managing partner for Jacksonville-based Brennan, Manna & Diamond, emceed the event.

“The Jacksonville Bar Association is proud of its regular association with Florida Coastal School of Law on the provision of legal services to those who cannot afford it,” Freed said. “Such outreach is critical to the workings of our justice system.” He said Coastal Law “wisely instills this commitment” in its students, who have a well-known reputation for community service work and involvement.

Millard said the class of 2012 performed more than 39,000 volunteer hours at graduation — a school record. “That’s a significant jump,” Millard said, “up from the 26,000 hours last year’s class contributed to community service endeavors.”

Students worked with many non-profit organizations, including Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, public defenders’ offices across the state, and other groups including the Clara White Mission and the Sulzbacher Center, Millard said.

“One thing to keep in mind is that the U.S. Census Bureau reported the number of those living below the poverty level had increased to 46.9 million — that means one person out of seven is living below the poverty rate,” Millard said, adding it is the highest rate the U.S. has seen in two decades. “This work comes at a time when it is desperately needed.”

One of Florida Coastal School of Law’s fundamental pillars, she said, is service to the underserved. The lessons students are learning about pro bono work and commitment to the community through their experiences will serve them well — and help further the school’s mission.

“They’re learning right now what their responsibilities are as attorneys — they’re already putting it into action,” Millard said. “Students at Florida Coastal School of Law already are doing more than what some attorneys are doing in their practice.”

Kathy Para, pro bono development coordinator at Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, said the class of 2012 contributed a greatly needed service to the Northeast Florida community.

“Florida Coastal is doing its part to develop and instill in our next generation of attorneys how important it is that they share their unique legal skills with people in need,” she said.

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Moot Court maintains top national billing

Florida Coastal School of Law is known around the world for its many strengths, but perhaps none so distinctive as its success in Moot Court. For years recognized as one of the strongest and winningest advocacy programs in the country, Coastal Law’s Moot Court program maintained a national first place standing throughout the spring and fall semesters, and reached top-four status at the Moot Court National Championship in February 2012.

“Florida Coastal School of Law is one of the strongest — and most diverse — programs in the country,” said Professor Sander Moody, faculty advisor for the Moot Court Honor Board. “And it starts and ends with our students’ hard work.”

Each year the Moot Court National Championship invites the top 16 schools in the country to participate. And while law schools at Columbia University, Duke University, George Washington University and the University of Texas create a competitive field, Coastal Law has ranked in the final four of the competition for the past two years.

The national championship is one of a number of national competitions in which the school participates throughout the year. Florida Coastal School of Law students, Moody said, command the respect of student peers around the country. “It’s rewarding because our students are treated like royalty — they come in to the competitions with a tremendous history of success,” he said.

Consistent with the National Championship success, Florida Coastal’s performances at two other national competitions shine additional light on the school’s impressive moot court program. Teams from Coastal Law won the Frederick Douglass Moot Court Competition’s Southeast Regional championship title in January, and later outpaced 150 competing teams to claim top honors at Nationals.

Last September, the team also won the National Latino Law Students Association Moot Court competition in New Orleans.

“Diversity is a core value at the law school,” Moody said. “And the success in these competitions shows that the law school is committed to it.”

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Foundation launches annual scholarship fund

Illustration by Karen Kurycki

The Florida Coastal School of Law Foundation has launched the Annual Scholarship Fund this year with the goal of raising not only funds for student scholarships but also awareness of the work of the Foundation. With the impressive Sonnenschein courtroom gift as its anchor, the Annual Scholarship Fund looks to inspire alumni to give in support of students seeking their dream of becoming a lawyer. Unlike the school, which is proprietary, the Coastal Law Foundation is an independent 501(c)(3) and will be able to focus entirely on benefiting students and attorneys.

“Because of the special corporate nature of the school, we are in a unique position to launch an independent charitable organization to meet the philanthropic goals of the school, its mission, and its people – including alumni,” Board Chair and Jacksonville Regional Chamber President Wally Lee said.

While its charitable activities are broader than the Annual Scholarship Fund, alumni contributions will be the cornerstone for the entire foundation.

“Alumni support is the bellwether for any growing, maturing institution of higher education,” said Dean and Board Member Peter Goplerud.

With nearly 3,700 alumni nationwide, he added the Foundation has set an initial goal that focuses on participation as much as dollars raised.

“As important as the money raised is the depth of the support alumni give to their alma mater. Each gift, no matter how small, is a type of ‘vote’ that says they believe in the institution and want to see it continue to offer others the opportunity they received,” Goplerud said.

In addition to the Annual Scholarship Fund and the Martha Sonnenschein Memorial Scholarship, the Foundation houses scholarship monies from a variety of sources, including the Florida Bar Foundation, Florida Matrimonial Lawyers Association, as well as several privately funded scholarships. The growing number of scholarships and funding will keep Foundation Scholarship Committee Chair Linsay Warren ’07 and her committee busy.

“It’s gratifying to receive the gifts and support but it is even more so to be able to assist students and support programming that benefits them,” she said.

The board of the Foundation meets quarterly and includes, in addition to Lee, Goplerud and Warren, attorney Jake Schickel, public relations and communications consultant Bruce Barcelo, President of the Non-Profit Center of Northeast Florida Rena Coughlin, and Community Foundation President Nina Waters.

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