Should we add the Mondragon model to the labor-management relations discussion about Japanese and German-style participatory management?
Inside Mondragon's labor-management relations

Professor Ariana Levinson is sharing Dean Crawford's blog for the week of May 21, 2018. She is blogging from a research trip to Mondragon, Spain.

See her previous posts:

May 21, 2018: First day in Mondragon, Spain

May 22, 2018: What does Wakanda have to do with Mondragon?

May 23, 2018: A cooperatively owned university

Eroski, a grocery, is a business of Mondragon.

Today we visited the site of the Basque Government in Vitoria, where we learned about the work of the General Secretariat for Human Rights, Coexistence, and Cooperation. We also learned about the Laboral Kutxa, Mondragon’s cooperative bank, and their project, Gaztempresa, that helps young entrepreneurs create businesses. There are many issues I could write about relating to entrepreneurship or my interest in dispute resolution, but, informally, I had the opportunity to speak with Anders (our Basque leader) about the social councils and labor-relations in the Mondragon Co-ops. Anyone who knows me knows that I will not pass up an opportunity to write about labor-management relations!

Anders Mondragon
Anders, the group's Mondragon guide.

In the United States, the traditional way for employees to have a voice in labor relations is through unionization of a particular business. In the 1990s, non-union businesses started to use a Japanese-style participatory management, in which employees worked in teams and provided input on a range of items through the teams, including terms and conditions of employment. A big debate followed about whether to revoke Section 8(a)(2) of the National Labor Relations Act, which prohibits employee committees assisted or dominated by an employer from dealing with an employer over terms and conditions of employment. But Congress did not amend the section, the National Labor Relations Board interpreted it in a way that is manageable for employers to follow, and the debated ebbed, although it continues to some extent to this day.

More recently, beginning in 2013 or 2014, Volkswagon considered implementing German-style work councils in its Chattanooga, Tennessee, Plant. German labor-relations focus around sectorial bargaining with unions, and work councils are used in individual plants. Initially Volkswagon determined that because of Section 8(a)(2), the arrangement would only be permissible if the employees voted in a union. Ultimately, the employees did not vote for unionization.

Like the Japanese model, Mondragon involves participatory management, and like the German one, the co-ops use councils.  A social council is elected by the employees of each co-op to address collective concerns and to establish a means of communication between cooperatives. While the Spanish law contains few sentences about the social council, Mondragon’s rules require a social council for all companies over 100 employees. Those with fewer employees can elect to have one. Social councils exist at the co-op level and also at the departmental level. The social council must study and meet about certain items and provide an opinion to the governing council and/or general assembly about them. These include the annual plan and the strategic plan (which is developed for a four-year period). They also provide an opinion on what the yearly calendar should be, including which holidays will be taken. They determine which particular causes will receive the 10 percent of net salary that each co-op must give to charitable causes. In co-ops with strong social councils, whenever the manager or governing council wants to make a change, such as a wage cut for the coming year, they will have to convince the social council or the change will back-fire. 

There are significant differences, however, from the Japanese and German model that suggest the Mondragon model may more effectively convey employees’ voice. First, workers who are not owners can unionize if they so choose, and some do. Eroski, the grocery workers, are unionized. Second, worker-owners not only present their collective concerns about terms and conditions of employment to the social council, but each worker-owner has a vote in the general assembly. This vote means they make the ultimate decision about labor-relations policies and terms and conditions of work. Third, because Mondragon is a humanistic-focused enterprise that puts workers before capital, their HR and companies appear to use problem-solving rather than correction and discipline to address work issues, such as tardiness or scheduling conflicts. Finally, because Mondragon worker-owners are limited to a six-to-one salary ration, meaning the highest-paid worker is paid no more than six times the lowest-paid, there may be less of a conflict between manager-owners and other worker-owners.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention that Mondragon and the Steelworkers have entered into an agreement to develop worker-owned co-ops in the U.S. where a union substitutes for the social council.  You can read more about this model if you are interested in my forthcoming article, Union Co-ops and the Revival of Labor Law.

The University of Mondragon houses three co-ops.
A cooperatively owned university

Professor Ariana Levinson is sharing Dean Crawford's blog for the week of May 21, 2018. She is blogging from a research trip to Mondragon, Spain.

See her previous posts:

May 21, 2018: First day in Mondragon, Spain

May 22, 2018: What does Wakanda have to do with Mondragon?

Ariana Levinson in Mondragon
Ariana Levinson in Mondragon

In addition to worker-owned cooperatives, some of the Mondragon Company cooperatives are multi-stakeholder. A multi-stakeholder cooperative is one where different classes of members jointly own the company; for instance, workers and consumers. Around 1971, Spanish law was amended to permit incorporation of multi-stakeholder cooperatives. In the US, some states have cooperative laws, like the Uniform Limited Cooperative Association Act, that permit incorporation as a multi-stakeholder cooperative, and in any state a multi-stakeholder co-op can be incorporated via an LLC.

Yesterday, we learned about the governance structure of the Mondragon co-ops and how the interrelations between the co-ops in the network are structured. We visited the museum honoring Father Arizmendiarrieta, the inspiration for and leader of the group that founded the first Mondragon cooperative in 1956, and we visited the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, which a Mondragon construction co-op was involved in building.

Otalora, Mondragon’s Adult Education Center
Otalora, Mondragon’s Adult Education Center

One of the Mondragon co-ops is a university, the University of Mondragon. The university is a second-level co-op, within which are three cooperatives: the Engineering School, the Business and Administration School and the Pedagogy and Humanities School, and a foundation, the Basque Culinary Center. The co-ops share revenues to enable a co-op to lose money when it is started. Each co-op is run by three classes of members. First, of course, the workers, such as professors and administrative staff, are member owners. Second, the consumers, the students, are member owners. Finally, collaborators, such as Mondragon co-ops, other private businesses and the city of Mondragon are owners. Each class elects four representatives to the General Council, which is equivalent to a Board of Directors.

For the engineers, Mondragon University offers an elective in cooperativism. But all the learning at the university is done through team project learning, and many students intern in Mondragon cooperatives. In these ways, students learn cooperativism thought practice. 15 percent of the funding for Mondragon comes from the Spanish government. 33 percent is funded by student tuition, and the rest by collaborators and revenue generating university projects. The annual cost to a student to join the co-op and attend the university is between 5,000 to 8,000 euros (about $5,900 to about $9,400), depending on which discipline. The cost to attend a public university in the Basque region is approximately 1,200 euros (about $1,400). The cost to attend the University of Louisville is $11,086.

On Monday, I will meet with the three law professors who teach in the Business School, and hope to have more to blog about the university then.

Guest blogger Professor Levinson explains Mondragon's cooperative principles.
What does Wakanda have to do with Mondragon?

Ariana Levinson

Professor Ariana Levinson is sharing Dean Crawford's blog for the week of May 21, 2018. She is blogging from a research trip to Mondragon, Spain.

See her previous post:

May 21, 2018: First day in Mondragon, Spain

Today was amazing. We visited Mondragon’s headquarters, the educational center and the multi-stakeholder (consumer and worker-owned) grocery, Eroski. I learned so much but will focus on a few items that will hopefully be of interest to lawyers.

One of Mondragon Company’s slogans is “Humanity at Work.” As summed up by our leader from the Mondragon Company, Ander, there is the ideal of work that focuses on humanity, and Modragon is way below that ideal. But Mondragon is also way above other Spanish companies and regions in reaching toward that ideal. 

We learned why Mondragon’s approach should be a point of reference in discussions in the Basque region about job creation, immigration and sustainability, even in a world where traditional companies are becoming more concerned with sustainability. In Kentucky, a law was recently passed to enable benefit corporations.  Benefit corporations are incorporated with a triple bottom-line. This means the company focuses not only on making a profit but also on having positive social and environmental impacts. Also, a new group in Kentucky, Canopy, advocates b-corporations. B-corporations are certified by an agency to practice a triple bottom-line. Mondragon and worker-owned co-ops should also be a point of reference in Kentucky.

We learned that Basque law requires companies incorporated as co-ops to give 10 percent of their annual net profits to social causes, such as sports clubs, community organizations and cultural organizations, including those focused on preservation of the Basque language. This is on top of the 14 percent tax the company pays the government. The additional 10 percent ensures that the cooperatives have a positive impact on the community.  

Mondragon, Spain

Mondragon is an international company, but the co-ops are only in Spain. The subsidiaries in other parts of the world, surprisingly including the U.S., are not cooperatives. There are 74,000 workers in the 268 businesses in the Mondragon network; 102 are cooperatives, with approximately 44,000 workers.

The younger generation is pushing to export not only Mondragon’s innovative and entrepreneurial business approach, but also the cooperative principles. They have established a company, Mondragon Team Academy (MTA), separate from the Mondragon Company, to promote team innovation by young people. They are working in several countries, including South Korea. A South Korean group joined us today. MTA is planning a six-month visit to the Pacific Northwest in the coming year.

So, the question for Mondragon, much like for Wakanda — the fictional sub-Saharan country home to superhero Black Panther — is will they keep their humanity at work model primarily for themselves and foster their own prosperity, or will they open their knowledge and cooperative ownership to the world? And at what price?  If they do open their cooperative ownership to the world, are they willing to face the challenges Wakanda faced in Infinity Wars?

Professor Ariana Levinson is guest blogging her trip to Mondragon, Spain.
Guest blog: First day in Mondragon, Spain

This week, I’m sharing my blog with Professor Ariana Levinson. She is spending the week in Spain at the Praxis Peace Institute Mondragon Seminar and Tour. Mondragon, the world’s largest enterprise of worker-owned cooperatives, ties in nicely with Professor Levinson’s current research. She is an expert in worker-owned cooperatives and plans to learn more about how to bring the laws governing these entities back to Kentucky.

Professor Levinson is at Mondragon thanks to the Dean's Faculty Development Fund, supported by Interim Provost Dale Billingsley. This fund finances several types of faculty research projects, including those between law faculty and other University of Louisville faculty and/or experts at other institutions.

Please join me in following these entries from Professor Levinson!

Study group, Mondragon
Professor Levinson's study group members arrive at their hotel.

Day One – Praxis Peace Institute Mondragon Seminar and Tour 

Warning: the Proletariat has taken over the Dean’s blog! No, seriously, I am delighted that because of a Dean’s Faculty Development Grant, I am in Mondragon today. And, Dean Crawford has kindly invited me to guest blog about what I learn each day at the Praxis Peace Institute Mondragon Seminar and Tour. 

One of my areas of scholarly expertise is worker-owned cooperatives. Some of you may be familiar with agricultural cooperatives, where different farms and producers join together to process, market and/or sell their products. Others of you may be familiar with consumer cooperatives, like the Good Foods co-op in Lexington or REI, where the customers of a business collectively own it. A worker-owned cooperative is one owned by the business’s workers, each of whom own one share of the company and have one vote in decision-making about the company.

Mondragon is a town in the Basque region of Spain. Basque is one of the world’s oldest languages, and the region is in northwestern Spain, in the Pyrenees, and crosses the border into France. Many people have only heard of the Basque because of Franco’s bombing of Guernica (depicted in Picasso’s famous painting) or the ETA, which fought for independence from Spain. The Basque people, however, have a long tradition of peaceful conflict resolution and self-governance. The town of Mondragon is Arrasate in Basque. The world’s largest cooperative is Mondragon Corporation, a network of cooperative businesses and educational institutions, which originated in the same region where the city is located. It is the Mondragon Corporation that brings me to Spain.

In the US, a handful of states have laws that specifically provide for incorporating as a worker-owned co-op. These laws are based on the model of how the Mondragon co-ops function. In other states, such as Kentucky, there is no specific law providing for worker-owned cooperatives, but they can be formed under the more general cooperative laws or as an LLC. There is currently one worker-owned co-op, Mountain Tech Media, in Eastern Kentucky where the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) is planning to incubate more. In Louisville, those involved with the Smoketown Laundry project also plan to incubate worker-owned cooperatives. 

I hope to learn valuable lessons, legal and otherwise, that will be of aid to all those in Kentucky who intend to open a worker-owned cooperative. I believe this form of business can contribute to sustainable development, increase individual wealth and correspondingly reduce wealth inequality and provide workers and community members transferable skills in financial literacy and conflict resolution.

I have been reading material about the Basque Comprehensive Model for Sustainable Human Development and about Mondragon provided by Georgia Kelly, the Director of the Praxis Peace Institute, in preparation for the trip. Simply from the reading, I know I will have so much to blog about that it will be difficult to pick one topic each day! I believe the seminar will address legal issues, policy decisions, labor relations, education, dispute resolution and innovation and entrepreneurship.

Dean Crawford explores the Jefferson Courtroom Upgrade Project.
Innovation abounds in Louisville

Judge McKay Chauvin and Patrick Michael
From left, Judge McKay Chauvin and Patrick Michael display innovative technology in Jefferson County Circuit Court.

I am so tired of the Kentucky jokes. 

When I accepted this job, a friend of mine who lives in Boston said, "I could never live in one of those states again."

"Those states?" I asked. She explained that she was "talking about those backward states."

Wow. Those "backward states?" And, sadly, she is not alone — I can hardly the count the number of times that people start in with “hillbilly” jokes.

Now, I’ve lived for significant period of my life on both the East and West coasts, and I’ve also lived in the "Deep South" — Georgia and Louisiana — for long periods. So I have some basis for comparing the strengths and weaknesses of a wide range of places people call home. And Louisville, Kentucky, is anything BUT backward. 

Indeed, after a little less than four months here, I constantly find myself wanted to shout out from the rooftops — loud enough for my coastal friends to hear — that Louisville is one of the most diverse, vibrant and innovative cities I’ve had the pleasure to live in.

This point powerfully came home to me this week when I met Circuit Judge McKay Chauvin and Dinsmore & Shohl partner Patrick Michael at a courtroom in the Jefferson County Circuit Court.

Both are friends of the Brandeis School of Law. Judge Chauvin has been an adjunct professor here and was awarded the law school's Dean's Service Award in 2016. We are proud to claim Mr. Michael as an alumnus.

For much of the past three years, Judge Chauvin and Mr. Michael have worked with a team to on the Jefferson Courtroom Upgrade Project, or JCUP. 

JCUP, now a project of the Louisville Bar Association, allows lawyers, judges, court staff and jurors to enjoy what may well be the most sophisticated interactive courtroom experience available anywhere in the US. Lawyers can show three visuals at once, cued to sound as needed (a 911 call, for example.) The entire record is digitalized, obviating the need for courtroom reporters and reducing the possibility of human error. One feature allows projection of exhibits that can focus in on tiny details with astonishing clarity.

And this was all accomplished by a team led by Mr. Michael and Judge Chauvin, who recognized that new technologies and the way we all now consume information needed to find expression in the courtroom.

JCUP is but one example of the innovation I’ve witnessed here in Louisville. I’m proud to be part of this city’s law school and look forward to what we can accomplish with the local bench and bar for the good of our city.

"I continue to be amazed at the diverse backgrounds and talent of the students I meet."
Engaging with students over breakfast

Briana Lathon, Colin Crawford and Calesia Henson
From left, Briana Lathon, Dean Colin Crawford and Calesia Henson.

One of the great pleasures of my job is getting to know our different groups of stakeholders — alums, community leaders, members of the bench and bar and, not least, our students. But for a dean, getting to know students is more difficult than one might expect — much of a dean’s time is spent on administrative tasks with faculty, with other university units and with donors.

That is one of the reasons I started having weekly “Breakfasts with the Dean” — so that I can get to know a small group of students in a more informal setting. Students sign up on a first-come, first-served basis, two or three a time. They are held at my neighborhood diner, Burger Boy. They happen weekly during the term, and I hope to continue them for the foreseeable future.

Every breakfast is different, but at every one I continue to be amazed at the diverse backgrounds and talent of the students I meet, as well as the many challenges they embrace and overcome to get their legal educations at Brandeis.

Chad Eisenback and Kelsey Luttrell with Colin Crawford
From left, Kelsey Luttrell, Chad Eisenback and Dean Colin Crawford.

For example, last week I met with two first-year students who, while still relatively young, arrived at Brandeis from other careers. Kelsey Luttrell has a master’s in public administration and worked in that field. Chad Eisenback was a union shop steward and began law school as a part-time student working the midnight shift.

Both of them are parents as well — and friends: Chad’s wife provides Kelsey day care when Kelsey has an early-morning class and on the occasions when Kelsey’s toddler came to campus, she was able to leave him with Chad while in class or interviewing. It takes a village! I left our meal deeply impressed by their determination to become lawyers while juggling so many different balls.

This week, I breakfasted with second-year student Calesia Henson and third-year Briana Lathon. Again, these breakfasts are for me a way to learn things I would not otherwise. Calesia has lived all over the United States and, following graduation from Baylor, spent two years in Memphis in the Teach for America program; a friend was from Louisville and recommended she apply here. She is now happily among us.

Briana Lathon is a student leader I’d already met. During our meal, the discussion ranged over a wide range of topics, but mostly, we talked about art and museums, a topic on which Briana is deeply informed. She shared a lot of her knowledge with me and Calesia (Briana, you can still be a curator someday!) Our hour together was an absolute delight. 

These breakfasts with students energize me and make me excited to come to work every day.

Periodic breakfast meetings allow Dean Crawford to get to know students.
Breakfast with the Dean

Breakfast on the Dean March 22
From left, Dean Crawford, student Elizabeth Mosley and student Macauley Campbell.

Being a dean is exciting and challenging — and for me, requires the developing and sharpening different skills than many I have honed as a classroom teacher for 20 years. Once I get settled in my position, I hope I will get back in the classroom again — at least occasionally. But one thing I do miss is the regular contact with students. Moreover, since I am new here at Brandeis, it is especially urgent for me to get to know our students.

For that reason, I have started “Breakfasts with the Dean” meetings. For these breakfast meetings, I invite up to three students to join me for breakfast at a local joint near my home in Old Louisville (Burger Boy, to be exact) — and the chance to chat and get to know one another better. (Note to the budget conscious: I am spending my personal funds and not UofL money for this purpose!)

I’ve started these breakfasts in the last week, and it has been a great window into the thoughts of our talented students. Thursday, March 22, was the first Breakfast with the Dean, and I enjoyed it completely. My breakfast was with second-year students Elizabeth Mosley and Macauley Campbell. The meal was an absolute pleasure. Both women are articulate, smart, funny, poised — I could go on about the strong impression they made. It confirmed for me how happy I am to be in this position. It also helped just a little to kill that sensation of missing the classroom and more regular student contact.

Breakfast on the Dean March 26
From left, student Ilya Chernyavskiy, Dean Crawford and student Evan Wright.

Monday, March 26, had me back at Burger Boy, this time with 3L Evan Wright and 2L Ilya Chernyavskiy. Both men shared their views that they would like to see the law school emphasize some of the corporate law skills and opportunities available in the Louisville market, as well as working with students from early on to think about job placements upon graduation. These are ideas I have heard elsewhere, and I hope that in coming months and weeks we can realize them. They also praised our faculty for their acumen and skill in the classroom — in our discussion singling out in particular Professors Les Abramson, Luke Milligan and Lisa Nicholson.

I hope the Breakfasts with the Dean will become a regular feature of my tenure and look forward to meeting many Brandeis students over breakfast in the weeks and months to come. The bad part? You have to be up and ready to order by 8 a.m.!

Congratulations to Frost Brown Todd, winner of the Law Firm Challenge!
Returning the 'naked Brandeis' trophy to its rightful owner

Justin Fowles and Colin Crawford
Justin Fowles (left), Frost Brown Todd managing associate, and Dean Colin Crawford.

Last Friday, March 9, I had the distinct pleasure of returning the “naked Brandeis” to its rightful owner, namely the firm of Frost Brown Todd. The “naked Brandeis” is in fact a small replica of Rodin’s “The Thinker” statute — the very same that sits in front of the university’s main administration building, Grawemeyer Hall.

Why the name, why the “naked Brandeis”? The story is that one of my predecessor Dean Susan Duncan’s children endearingly referred to the replica — our trophy for the winner of the annual Law Firm Challenge — as “naked Brandeis,” logically enough associating the school’s name with the unclothed statue. And the moniker stuck.

The Law Firm Challenge is one of the law school’s signature fundraising events. Thirty law firms and more than 400 Brandeis School of Law alumni compete in different categories to achieve the highest percentage of alumni giving during a fiscal year. Gifts of any size qualify for the challenge and toward a firm’s participation rate.

In Spring 2017, Frost Brown Todd outpaced its rivals with an innovative campaign that tapped new donation sources. Under Frost Brown Todd’s leadership, they firm raised more than $16,000 for the law school. In a perfect world, it seems, the trophy would have been theirs by the summer. But at about that time, Dean Duncan bid goodbye to head south to lead the law school at Ole Miss. My colleague Lars Smith then took over as interim dean and I did not start until January. Somehow, in all of the tumult, the “naked Brandeis” was lost. But our interim director of development, the intrepid Justin Leighty, tracked it down and I was, finally, able to present it to Frost Brown Todd partners and associates, and to share thoughts about the future of the law school and the legal community here.

For now, then, the naked Brandeis is at home with Frost Brown Todd. But just for now — the Law Firm Challenge will soon be underway anew. This time, I hope, we will keep tabs on our prized trophy!

Dean Crawford reflects on the 'ideological complexity' he has encountered among students and alumni.
Common ground across the aisle

Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Mitch McConnell
Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Mitch McConnell

“There is no such thing as Brooklyn bourbon!” insisted U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to a packed room at UofL’s McConnell Center recently. The senator had just been given a bottle of Widow Jane bourbon made in Brooklyn, New York, by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who said the spirit was produced just blocks away from the senator’s New York home. It was a great moment — not least because the personal chemistry the two men shared was palpable. They truly appeared to enjoy one another’s company.

(Schumer was on campus to give a talk at the McConnell Center.)

Since arriving in Louisville, I find myself constantly thinking about and confronted by politics — and having my assumptions upended time and again. We are told by the media that we have never been more divided as a country politically, that we cannot get along, cannot work with one another. But the encounter I watched on stage at UofL suggested a different, more complicated, reality. This was confirmed further when one of my guests at the McConnell Center event — my distant cousin, former U.S. Representative Ben Chandler, whose politics bend more toward Senator Schumer’s than Senator McConnell’s — bounded backstage and joked warmly with both men.

I have had similar, powerful experiences with some of our students and younger alums and have been impressed by the political involvements of them all.

For example, I was on a mock interview team for 1L students with Brandeis Law alumnus Alex White (2012). Alex has established himself as a leading young member of the plaintiffs’ bar in Louisville. For him, representing personal injury clients is almost religion. Alex himself was in two accidents and has battled insurance companies personally. He clearly takes this zeal into his battles on behalf of clients. Alex spoke movingly to me of his desire to protect the interests of those most vulnerable, including those clients who did not speak English well (he even tried to hire as a law clerk a Spanish-speaking 1L following the interview).

Alex told me he is running as a Republican for state Senate because of his strong commitment to this issue and to others, like the separation of powers. For him, I could see, politics rises above party loyalties.

Alex showed me that our supposed political divides can be less important than a shared commitment to the issues that matter to us all. Alex and I disagree on almost every “hot button” national issue, but his obvious integrity and commitment to serving the interests of all Kentucky citizens moved me so much that I soon sent him a check for his campaign.

I was similarly impressed at a Louisville Bar Association event where I met Ronnie Mills, a second-year student who told me that he went to law school to enter politics — he wants to be president of the United States one day. I had to admire that kind of self-confidence!

Soon thereafter, Ronnie and first-year student Alixis Russell came to my office and proposed a discussion series for the 2018-19 academic year co-sponsored by the Federalist Society for the right and the American Constitution Society for the left. The drive for finding common ground was clearly important to them.

At the same LBA event, I ran into graduating student John Weber, who continued to share his deep knowledge of and interest in Kentucky and national politics, with views markedly free of partisan rancor. Once again, my conversations with Ronnie, Alixis and John showed me that the stark left-right divisions we hear from the media were not being played out in my experiences with our law students and alums, and that mere fact gave me hope.

This kind of ideological complexity is a quality I associate with Justice Brandeis, and it made me think that in ways large and small we are serving his intellectual legacy at the law school.

The pundits are telling us that 2018 will be the Year of the Women in politics. And while Kentucky has one of the nation’s lowest percentages of women in elected office (at about 17 percent), Brandeis women graduates are well represented in the state legislature.

State Representative McKenzie Cantrell (2012), who represents House District 38 is said to have knocked on every door in her district three times during her first election. And State Representative Sannie Overly (1993), representing House District 72, became the first woman in House leadership in the history of the commonwealth when she was elected House Majority Caucus Chair. I met McKenzie at a faculty event before I formally began, in November 2017. I have not yet met Sannie but look forward to meeting her and other members of the Metropolitan Caucus after the legislative session. In the years ahead, I expect that some of our current female students will follow them into politics. I certainly hope so.

In his first two months in Louisville, Dean Crawford has met several interesting people, including alumni and current students.
A whirlwind entrance to Louisville

Robert Brown (far left) participates in a traditional Japanese ceremony at the Governor's Mansion.

I have now been in Kentucky for just a little over two months. And what a whirlwind it has been!

In January, I was invited to the annual celebration of Japanese-Kentucky cooperation at the Governor’s Mansion in Frankfort. At the event, our alum Robert Brown (1974) was honored with the Japanese government’s highest award given to a non-Japanese, the Order of the Rising Sun, bestowed on him by the Japanese Consul General. There, I chatted with Robert and Gov. Matt Bevin and several of his cabinet secretaries.

Then, in the first week of February, I welcomed Attorney General Andy Beshear to the law school, where he delivered an impassioned defense of the #MeToo movement, which has raised awareness about the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in our society.

Dean Colin Crawford (left) and Ben Chandler

And in between, I met a kaleidoscope of equally impressive people. One memorable lunch was with Ben Chandler, the former U.S. representative and now president of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. Ben’s grandmother, two-term Governor A.B. "Happy" Chandler, was from Corydon, in Henderson County, Kentucky. My father was born in Corydon too, and when I arrived at lunch, Ben told me that in our grandfathers’ generation, two Chandler women married two Crawford men — so I can now claim Kentucky cousins.

Above all, I have been impressed by the dedication and ability of our students.

One Saturday, I spent a morning as a mock interviewer for 1Ls  at an event hosted by Frost Brown Todd. The variety, quality and achievement of the students I interviewed was impressive.

Many of our students, I learned, have had different careers, including challenging tours of military duty. Others are parents — one law review editor manages to do that and take care of four children! And he is not alone.

At Student Bar Association, the mother of two who had started her day at 8 a.m. showed up at a meeting at 8:30 p.m. to present an argument in defense of the creation of a Diversity Chair within the SBA. That sort of dedication to her beliefs comes at a short-term cost to family, I know. But it also speaks to someone who will bring great integrity and ability to the practice of law. In short, I am thrilled to be a part of this community, where healthy debate is encouraged and alive, in a welcoming city and at a dynamic, friendly law school.

I look forward to meeting more members of the Brandeis community in coming months. Please feel free to contact me at if you would like to connect.