With a collection of programs as large and diverse as UB School of Law’s Advocacy Institute, it takes clear vision, direction and purpose to take the initiative to the next level. That’s the goal of the Institute’s new director: professor and criminal procedure scholar Anthony O’Rourke.
O’Rourke succeeds Professor Kim Diana Connolly, who led the Advocacy Institute for two years. He says he hopes to build on the strengths that have been developed in the Institute, which is comprised of a panoply of programs designed to build students’ skills in client advocacy.
The Institute encompasses three key areas of legal training: Trial Advocacy, including Trial Technique and other practical courses, as well as national trial competitions; Appellate Advocacy, with extensive research and writing components and national appellate competitions; and Alternative Dispute Resolution, again involving courses and competition experiences.
“I envision my role as making big-picture decisions about what the Advocacy Institute should be and the direction it should take in cultivating excellent student advocates and litigators,” O’Rourke says. “We need to build an endowed Institute that builds on the strengths of our students, faculty, and legal community. My goal is for us to achieve national prestige without sacrificing the core values of legal education.”
“This is an Institution that depends on practitioner involvement and community contributions. I hope alumni think of the Institute as a focal point for dialogue between the school and the legal community.” - Anthony O’Rourke, director of the Advocacy Institute
“UB School of Law has an incredible number of advocacy-related classes, extracurricular activities and programs, some of which are less visible than they could be,” he adds. “My job is to offer an articulate vision for what a student advocacy experience can be across the law school.”
Buffalo trial attorney Terrence M. Connors ’71 chairs the Institute’s national advisory board, which includes renowned experts in New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C. “Tony is the perfect blend of academic excellence and real-life litigation experience,” Connors says. “An honor student at Columbia Law with teaching experience and a two-year stint with the Federal Defenders of New York, Tony has handled the entire litigation gamut from trial to appellate, including death penalty litigation. We are pleased that he has accepted the position of director of our law school’s Advocacy Institute.”
O’Rourke’s teaching and leadership is informed by his recent sabbatical experience as a staff attorney with the Federal Defenders of New York, in Brooklyn. There he represented indigent clients in a range of federal appellate and trial criminal cases, including a high-profile federal capital appeal.
“I was grateful for the opportunity to get more firsthand experience in the complexity of criminal practice, including federal capital litigation but also the sort of cases that consume the vast majority of a public defender’s time,” he says. “I wanted to spend some time engaging with the realities of practice, particularly the experience of serving clients. I was humbled by my time at the Federal Defenders, and am confident that it will help me build an informed and engaged scholarly agenda. The experience renewed my appreciation of the demands of practice, and litigating in an office with excellent attorneys made me value the importance of a traditional legal education taught by faculty who have a national reputation for scholarly research. That type of thinking was more important to the process of creative lawyering than I had assumed.”
At the Advocacy Institute, O’Rourke credits Associate Director Dawn Skopinski, who manages the day-to-day operations of the Institute, as well as those responsible for the Institute’s component programs. And he welcomes and encourages alumni interest, both in terms of personal involvement and the investment of resources that make a high-level program possible. “This is an Institution that depends on practitioner involvement and community contributions,” O’Rourke says. “I hope alumni think of the Institute as a focal point for dialogue between the school and the legal community.” One of his primary goals is an especially ambitious one: a substantial endowment that will fund the cost of student travel and even more ambitious projects. “I want to build an endowment,” O’Rourke says, “that will allow us to be one of the best advocacy law schools in the country.”