By CHARLES OWENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
GRUNDY, Va. —
When Lucy McGough first traveled to the campus of the Appalachian School of Law as a member of the American Bar Association’s Law School Accreditation Committee in 2006, she was impressed by what she saw in the close-knit Southwest Virginia community.
However, at the time, she never envisioned herself living in the small town of Grundy, or one day working as the dean of the law school.
“The starting place is probably a committee I chaired in 2006 for the American Bar Association,” McGough said of her journey that took her from Louisiana State University to the Appalachian School of Law. “When a law school applies for accreditation — obviously the American Bar Association is the accrediting agency. So when the ADA accredits a school, its graduates can take the bar in any jurisdiction. If you want to go anywhere, you have to have ABA accreditation. So the bar has a team of educators and judges and lawyers, and mixed teams that go to a site and reports on whether or not they believe a site should be accredited or re-accredited. I came to Appalachian and fell in love with it. It’s a small community of faculty who care that students learn. It’s a very closely knit, intellectual and personal community. I thought it was extraordinary. I did recommend approval, and it was fully accredited in 2006.”
At the time, she returned to LSU, but with fond memories of the Appalachian School of Law.
“My husband — who was also a colleague on the LSU faculty — and I decided we needed to be refreshed by spending a semester at another law school,” McGough said. “So we started looking.”
One school the couple considered visiting for a semester was the Appalachian School of Law.
“So I wrote a letter, asking if there was any possibilities for visiting in the fall of 2012,” she said. “We didn’t hear back (from the law school). So I said — well that’s that. But then they called and said — ‘no we don’t have any offerings, but would you like for you to be dean,’ which was totally different from what I thought about doing. I was just going to come here and teach.”
McGough accepted the position, and became the new dean of the Appalachian School of Law in July.
Going from LSU to the small Southwest Virginia law school was a significant but welcomed change for McGough.
“It’s a significant difference,” she said. “Both are lovely places, but both are very, very different. We have a much larger student body at LSU. It’s a state school. Appalachian of course is private. We never had a pot luck dinner (at LSU), and I’ve had four since I’ve been here.”
The small town atmosphere in Grundy surprised McGough.
“From my personal experience, there was a dog in the backyard of a house in which we lived in, and I was worried somebody had just dumped the dog off,” she said. “I talked to a security guard, who not only knew who the dog belonged too, which was a law student, but also knew where the dog lived. And that never would have happened at LSU or anywhere else I lived.”
Although she has only been in town for a couple of months, McGough likes what she sees.
“So far it’s been all good,” she said. “I think Grundy is an amazing place, and Buchanan County for starting a law school. I can’t think of any other law school where the idea for the law school begins in the community.”
Since moving to Grundy, McGough has been busy both at the law school, and in the community.
“I’ve been to four churches, and four pot lucks,” she said. “I’ve joined the women’s club and I go to Walmart at least four times a week.”
Founded in 1994, the law school also helped to pave the path for a new pharmaceutical school in Grundy, and now a new optometry school also in Grundy. The law school currently has 300 students enrolled. Classes began late last month.
The students at the law school are coming from 26 different states. However, the majority of those who enroll at the Appalachian School of Law come from the six state area of Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.
McGough said the majority of the students who graduate from the law school stay in the Appalachian region. However, others will end up moving outside of the six-state region.
“Some are in New York and some are in Texas,” she said. “Which I think helps to spread information about Appalachia. But the majority stay in the same Appalachian region. Most of them I would say are either in small practice or public service — prosecutors, defense counsels or government officials. Five Commonwealth attorneys in Virginia are alumni (of the Appalachian School of Law).”
McGough is hoping to see the law school grow in the months and years ahead. She also hopes to build upon the existing externship program at the law school while also exploring partnerships with the regional community college system.
“There are many opportunities for growth because we are so young,” she said. “So that’s very exciting.”
McGough also hopes to see the Natural Resources Law Center open on the campus of the law school within the next two years.
“The Natural Resources Law Center is a response again to the community, and the energy investment,” McGough said. “Not just coal, but all types of energy. So we have already established the center, and we even have a building for the center. We hope to be able to attract lawyers who come for short courses and science majors who might want to capture their scientific background and specialize in this highly specialized corner of the law. Many schools have created specialties. Our natural specialty is natural resources.”
“In the meantime, we are holding classes on natural resources topics,” Karen Harvey, director of institutional development at the Appalachian School of Law, added. “We are also working with the folks doing a symposium, and doing another clinic.”
McGough comes to Grundy with her husband professor James Bowers, four dachshunds and seven children.
“They (the children) are spread out everywhere and there is not a lawyer in the bunch,” she said.
McGough received her J.D. with distinction in 1966 from Emory University Law School and was elected to the Bryan Society (Order of the Coif). She received her LL.M. in 1971 from Harvard University School of Law. She taught at LSU for more than 25 years prior to coming to Appalachian School of Law. While at LSU, she taught criminal justice, family law, trusts and estates, and juvenile law seminar. She co-taught the Juvenile Defense Representation Clinic at LSU in which third-year law students represent real juveniles in the East Baton Rouge Juvenile Court, according to her biography. She also was engaged in work in connection with the LSU’s MacArthur Foundation grant to create a model juvenile defense clinic that can be adapted by other American law schools. While at LSU, she was very active in law reform work, serving among other responsibilities, as the reporter of the Children’s Code Advisory Committee to the State Law Institute and as a member of the state public defender board. She previously sat as a member of the ABA Law School Accreditation Committee and currently is a member of the ABA Committee charged with producing a new set of accreditation standards for American law schools. McGough also has authored or co-authored more than 10 books and 49 law review articles.
— Contact Charles Owens at firstname.lastname@example.org