Louis Thompson joined Rutgers Law as the new Dean of Students at our Camden location earlier this summer. He brings with him a range of experience, from authoring LSAT questions at the Law School Admissions Council to most recently serving as the Assistant Dean for Graduate & International Programs at Temple Law.
We sat down with Thompson for a Q&A introduction for the Rutgers Law community.
Welcome to Rutgers Law! What drew you to the Rutgers Law community?
Like our website says—Value, Diversity, and Culture. I believe in the mission of the law school—to make a quality legal education accessible to as wide a range of students as possible in an open, nurturing environment. For the purposes of full disclosure what initially led me to apply for the position was the position itself. Without initially intending it, my past experiences have been leading me toward becoming a dean of students. That being said, after meeting with a team of faculty and administrators who showed a deep and abiding belief in the mission of the school, and knowing the quality of lawyers the school has produced, I was convinced I was meant to be the Dean of Students at Rutgers Law in Camden.
What excites you about your new role here?
I thrive on student interaction, and on thinking of ways to enhance and complement the superb educational experience our students are getting from a truly stellar faculty.
Do you have any goals or programming you’d like to tackle right away?
When a school is doing as well as the law school is doing, it would be foolhardy to propose big new programming without first experiencing how everything runs. So, my real goal this year is getting to know you—the students, the staff, the programs, the alumni and to really listen to them and work with them to make law school as great as an experience as it can be for students.
How did you come to work in and around law schools?
I was one of those annoying students who loved law school, and while I also enjoyed being a lawyer, when the opportunity to return to an academic setting presented itself, I jumped on it. My alma mater, Temple Law, was looking for someone to head up their career services office. Because I had participated on panels and interacted positively with professors and administrators while in law school, they overlooked the fact that I did not have as much lawyering experience as they had specified. I was as surprised as I was happy that they hired me. The work I did there and then as head of the law school’s international and graduate programs has been the most satisfying time of my life to date. I am hoping that changes now.
How has your past experience prepared you to be Dean of Students?
As the dean for career services, I met with at least a hundred students every year, working closely with at least half of them. Not just about preparing for interviews or beefing up cover letters, but on the many and different issues that the stress of the job hunt, and law school generally, would bring out. That taught me to be a good listener, a problem solver, and when necessary a dispenser of tough love. As the dean for international programs, I had to do the same with a smaller, but more complex set of students. The overlay of cultural differences deepened my appreciation of how important it is to take into account where students come from—literally and figuratively. In both roles, I would be an intermediary between students and faculty. I am glad that Rutgers Law has given me the opportunity to make this the central part of my job.
What is the most rewarding part of working with law students?
One of the things I love about travel is that it constantly shows me how diverse and wonderful and terrible and awesome the world really is. Working with students fills me with that same sense of awe. I’ve learned so much about people and about myself from working with students.
We heard you used to actually write the LSAT! Any insider tips?
The stock answer is that taking practice exams using actual past LSAT questions under timed conditions is statistically the single best technique to improve one’s score. However, learning the underlying principles of logical analysis while an undergrad will help not just with the LSAT, but with succeeding in law school as well. So, take an informal logic class (which will help immensely with the Logical Reasoning section) and a formal logic class (sometimes called symbolic or mathematical logic). After all, the overwhelming majority of us who wrote and reviewed items where philosophy graduate students and Ph.D.s who taught those courses. Oh, and stay hydrated. Dehydration impairs cognitive functioning.
What’s one thing you’d like to learn about Rutgers Law?
I’d like to learn how I can best help, that and where all the good places to eat are.
If you had to pick one song to listen to for the rest of your life, what would it be? Why?
“Getting to Know You,” The King and I (Rogers and Hammerstein 1951). See goals, supra. Just kidding. Frankly, I think I would go crazy if I had to listen to any one song for the rest of my life.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Chatting with friends at a café in some small piazza over a plate of cacio e pepe and a glass of cheap Trebbiano.
Favorite country or city you’ve visited?
Rome. Una vita non basta per Roma.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
What’s one interesting thing about you that we didn’t cover?
I went to law school without taking the LSAT. Because I wrote Analytical Reasoning questions and read entire test forms for sensitivity and fairness, LSAC would not score any LSAT I would take. Back then, ABA rules permitted schools to waive taking the LSAT as long as they looked at the results of some other standardized test. Luckily, I had a still valid GRE score.
And finally, what is one thing you wish all law students knew?
You are not in it alone. There is always someone here to help, whether it be your family, your friends, or us.