Dear UW Law Community:

Welcome to the 2020-21 academic year! As I shared at Orientation last week, I am excited and happy to welcome our new and returning students. We are thrilled and honored to be on this important journey with you, and I continue to be humbled by your resilience.

Obviously, we are not starting the year under the circumstances we hoped. Our nation has been living with COVID-19 since the spring, and we thought we would be able to welcome you in person this fall. However, I am sure that in this moment we are providing not only an exceptional learning experience, but also one that is safe for our students, faculty and staff. Staff have been working all summer to ensure a smooth learning experience. Faculty have been learning and preparing for a successful quarter of largely remote education.

This country is facing many challenges this year in addition to COVID-19. We are still dealing with our national reckoning over racial violence and ongoing protests, including those in response to the grand jury’s decision this week to indict only one of the three former police officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s death on lesser charges.

We are also mourning the loss of two significant individuals: William H. Gates, a 1950 UW Law graduate who was a longtime university friend renowned for his civic engagement and deep legal expertise; and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a pioneer of gender equity who reshaped the field of antidiscrimination and was known as someone who gave her life to this country. We are fortunate to have benefited from the services of these remarkable people.

There is no doubt we are in a moment of great challenge. But we must remember that though it may not feel like it now, this moment is temporary. We will survive it together. The challenge will make use stronger. We will come out of it better able to serve our communities and our clients while making an indelible impact in Washington and the world.

As I shared with new students last week, when I reflect on my career, the most rewarding parts were not the easy victories or times when only good things happened. The most satisfying work came from the times that felt daunting, the times that challenged me as a person and as a lawyer. They were the times when I wasn’t sure how I could keep going, and once I had gotten to the other side, I knew the work in those moments was the most important work I had ever undertaken.

We recognize being in law school during a global pandemic is daunting. But it is also part of what is going to make you who you are. It is going to contribute to your resilience, and you are going to be incredibly proud of yourselves for your ability to thrive. I know you are up to this task. I believe in you, and I believe in this community.

We will not be impeded by these challenges because this community is made up of people who are committed to advancing fundamental values like justice and fairness. This is a community that cares deeply about each other, and it will not be defeated by this moment.

If there is anything we can do to help any member of our community be successful, please do not hesitate to reach out:

  • Students, contact Anna Endter, associate dean for students, at
  • Staff, contact Sellyna Ehlers, director of human resources, equity and engagement, at
  • Faculty, contact Liz Porter, associate dean for academic administration, at

It is an honor to be among so many compassionate, skilled problem-solvers. Welcome to the new academic year.


Mario L. Barnes
Toni Rembe Dean and Professor of Law
University of Washington School of Law