A story for the New Year. Maybe you can relate.
I recently turned 57 years old. Although I am dismayed and disappointed by many things happening in our republic, and impatient with an industry, profession and educational complex that is supposed to operate in the public interest, whatever quantum of cynicism I possessed went away in 2019. Moreover, it happened quickly, albeit many of the pieces were put into place more a decade ago.
In today’s special New Year’s Day post, I tell the story of how I lost my cynicism. It’s possible it may return, but I’m very grateful to get so close to zero. Further, I suspect many of my colleagues and friends will relate to parts of the journey, as I believe we are fellow travellers more than we realize.
My friend Raj Kumar
The story has several threads and begins with breakfast in the fall of 2008 at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which was arranged by Professor Marc Galanter, a brilliant scholar and one of my occasional co-authors.
Marc wanted to introduce me to Raj Kumar, a professor at the City University of Hong Kong who hailed from India. After obtaining his BCL from Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, Raj came to the US to get his LLM from Harvard Law. During the course of his studies, Raj connected with Galanter, one of the academy’s leading India scholars.
As I learned over breakfast, Raj’s dream was to establish a law school in India that would be on par with Harvard and Oxford but with a mission to fully establish and uphold the rule of law in India. Raj believed that through a stronger and more learned legal profession, all of India would be elevated. Although I had no firsthand knowledge of the problem Raj was trying to solve, it was memorable to be in the presence of such a talented person who wanted to build something for the benefit of others. Raj’s monumental challenge, however, was the complete absence of private philanthropy in India. Unlike in the US, there was no precedent for giving away one’s fortune to create more and better university-based education.
Through this meeting I also learned that my colleague, Professor Jay Krishnan, was serving on Raj’s board of advisors. A few months later, Jay informed me that Raj had secured funding and was now touring the US to establish alliances between US law schools and Jindal, a new private law school in India that would have academic and scholarly standards on par with the best schools in the West. In the spring of 2009, Raj came to Bloomington, where he and then Dean Lauren Robel signed an MOU outlining our future reciprocal relationship.
A trip to India
Thus, in the summer of 2009, I found myself in India for festivities associated with the launching of this new Indian school.
To be clear, however, Jindal Global Law School did not yet exist, at least as a physical place. Land had been acquired in Haryana, roughly one hour north of New Delhi, India’s capital. Further, as a condition of getting the funding from the Jindal family, Raj agreed to build a university that would include a school of business and a school of international affairs. Because of Raj’s distinguished career as a lawyer and law professor, everyone agreed that it made sense to launch the law school first.
As part of the festivities, which took place in New Delhi, Raj commissioned coach buses to Haryana so foreign guests could visit the school’s future campus. When we arrived, we saw a vast, flat construction site. The only structure above ground was the frame of a single concrete building, which was where we all congregated on colorful makeshift carpet to learn about the future of this new law school.
Months later, in February of 2010, Jay Krishnan and I returned to India to recruit Indian employers for a nascent summer program to be run through IU’s Center for the Global Legal Profession. Although the vast majority of our meetings were in New Delhi, at Raj’s request, we travelled to Haryana to visit the Jindal campus. Much to my amazement, the open-air construction site I visited six months earlier was now a fully functioning school with classrooms, students, a library and faculty offices. Jindal began as an idea in the mind of an idealist young academic. Now, two years later, the entire Jindal campus seemed to be growing out of the ground. I was completely bowled over.
During my tour of the Law School, I noticed a small poster in Raj’s office that contained some inspirational words. I asked Raj about its origins, and he replied, “Oh, Bill, this is very important; this is something you must have.” He then took the poster down from the wall, inscribed it with a personal message, and instructed his assistant to package it for travel. This is how the poster found its way to the US, where it sat unopened in my closet for nearly a decade.
During the summer of 2019, I am focused on raising money for the Institute for the Future of Law Practice. In July, we finished our second fiscal year and exceeded all our operational metrics. We ran bootcamps in Boulder, Chicago and Toronto that served 66 students from 18 law schools and placed them at 50+ IFLP employers. Ten students were on paid 7-month field placements for academic credit, effectively creating a full-time, paid residency as part of their 3L year. Our diversity and net-promoter data were outstanding. See Post 118 (IFLP data download).
IFLP grew out of a successful pilot at Colorado Law that included several of my students from Indiana. I stuck with it over the years because I thought it had potential to solve issues of training and employment for law students. Then in 2016, the ABA changed the accreditation rules to permit pay with academic credits. Over the years, several loyal employers had told me and Bill Mooz that they wanted the Colorado program to scale to other law schools and more students. If we could prove the value of the training through law students, we thought we could create a self-sustaining nonprofit that could help upskill the vast mid-career professional market. In short, we saw a pathway to an industry-level solution. Because so many of the pieces were already in place, we felt obligated to give it a try. See Post 078 (recounting IFLP history).
What was missing from these grand plans, however, was seed capital so IFLP could shift from a volunteer-driven startup to an organization that had sufficient resources to scale. As the interim Director of Development, it has been my job to find sponsorship and philanthropic dollars for IFLP. Although I was grateful for the shoestring funding that always seemed to arrive a week or two before we ran out of money, by early August, I had largely exhausted my network and was running out of funding ideas. I was also becoming more cynical and judgmental.
As a rummaged through my office closet to complete that day’s work, my head was playing a tape along the line of “We are all part of the same profession. Why do so few people act like it?” Then, in the course of this pathetic meditation, I put my hand on the poster given to me by Raj Kumar nearly a decade earlier, unrolled it, and read its words for what seemed like the first time. See graphic below [click on to enlarge]
Like Raj, I was trying to build something that needed to exist. My obstacles and hurdles, however, were a tiny fraction of what Raj had faced in “Impossible India.” Now, ten years later, Raj was delivering to me a crucial and timely message: “Adjust your expectations. Your continued effort is what matters. Do these things Anyway.” As I sat there in my office, I experienced a mix of humility, encouragement and peace unlike anything I had ever experienced in my long and fortunate life.
Raj Kumar never told me the origins of the Anyway poster.
If you google “Anyway” along with one of its verses, you’ll discover a poem often attributed to Mother Teresa, as the words were on the wall of her orphanage in Calcutta. Eventually, these words found their way to the US in a book called, Mother Teresa: A Simple Path, compiled by Lucinda Yardley. Yet, there is more to the story.
Twenty-three years ago, a lawyer and executive named Kent Keith was attending his local Rotary Club meeting. As Mother Teresa had just died, one of his fellow Rotarians began the meeting by reading the Anyway poem. Keith was mystified, as he was personally very familiar with the poem. The next day, Keith located a copy of Yardley’s book in the bookstore. Anyway had been formatted as a poem, but no author was listed. The bottom of the page read, “From a sign on the wall of Shishu Bhavan, the children’s home in Calcutta.”
The original author of Anyway was, in fact, Kent Keith, who wrote the verses not as a poem but as examples of the paradoxical commandments of leadership if you wanted to be successful over the long haul. At the time, Keith was a 19-year-old college sophomore. Anyway was part of a book project for a national association of high school principals. See The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in Student Council (1968). After college, Keith went on to become (like Raj Kumar) a Rhodes Scholar. He also earned a law degree and a doctorate in education, serving in a variety of challenging and fulfilling roles in government, business and higher education.
Twenty-five years later, the words from Keith’s long-ago published book started coming back to him, first through groups of teachers, librarians, police chiefs and ministers, often without attribution, who were trying to inspire their colleagues, and then with the Rotary Club. After the Mother Teresa connection came to light, Keith acknowledged that people were “as hungry as ever for meaning and spiritual truth” and that he had a role to play in filling the void. Thus, he wrote Anyway: The Ten Paradoxical Commandments (2002), which shares the story of how each of the Anyway verses came to be. He also has written two other books that expand upon these same themes.
As we enter a new decade, I am grateful to be one more person touched by the message of Anyway. I hope some readers feel the same.
As of 2019, the OP Jindal Global University has 5,100 students, 2,900 alumni, 500 faculty (16% international), and eight schools (Law, Business, International Affairs, Public Policy, Liberal Arts & Humanities, Journalism & Communication, Art & Architecture, and Banking & Finance). It is the youngest university in the world to be ranked by the QS World University Rankings (top 3% out of 28,000 universities).
Regarding IFLP, I cannot write this essay and not offer sincere thanks to the following corporate sponsors who have kept the dream alive: Chapman & Cutler (especially Tim Mohan and Nancy Linder), Cisco (especially Mark Chandler), Elevate (especially Liam Brown and Steve Harmon), Quislex (especially Ram Vasudevan), LSAC (especially Kellye Testy and Annmarie Levin), Hermes Law (especially Dwayne, Patron 00001), Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (especially Katie DeBord and Angie Ligon), Decipher (especially Michael Ellenhorn), Baker McKenzie (especially David Cambria, aka the Godfather), and Dentons (especially Joe Andrew and John Fernandez).
In addition, special thanks to our individual patrons, none of whom are cynical and all of whom helped us pay the bills in 2019: Melissa Moss, Stephen Gallagher, Peter Lederer, Ron Friedmann, Jae Um, Ari Kaplan, Kathryn DeBord, Peter Geovanes, Keith Conrad, John Flood, William Abrams, Jeff Kelly, Gordon Smith, Kevin Colangelo, Lisa Colpoys, Bill Mooz, Dan Linna, Kelli Dunaway, Chase Hertel, Carl McCarthy, Robert Ambrogi, Janice Hollman, Rob Adams, Natalie Worsfold, Patrick Lamb, Sarah Kavanagh, Kyle Adams (IFLP alum ’18), Rob Saccone, Jordan Furlong, Colin Levy, Leopoldo Hernández Romano, Josh Kubicki, Jason Barnwell, Nick Rishwain, Yilun Hu (IFLP alum ’19), Ralph Baxter, Elmer Thoreson (IFLP alum ’18), Brad Blickstein, and Dan Rodriguez.