Originally published in Bloomberg Law on 6/26/16.

Buffalo News: Scheck, Connors and three judges join panel advising UB Law School students

June 26 (Buffalo News) — Three prominent judges, a former high-ranking official of the U.S. Department of Justice and a defense attorney who worked on the O.J. Simpson “Dream Team” have joined the national advisory board for the University at Buffalo Law School’s new Advocacy Institute.

Members of the 15-member advisory board hope to help the school improve its standing among law schools throughout the country, said Terrence M. Connors, a Buffalo attorney who serves as board chairman.

“I believe the Advocacy Institute is a fantastic idea that can move UB into the upper echelons of law schools,” Connors said. “These are very prominent people who have agreed to help UB law students become the best courtroom advocates they can possibly be.”

The group includes New York City defense attorney Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project at Cardozo School of Law, which has helped to exonerate about 300 individuals convicted of serious crimes. Scheck is known nationwide as part of the “Dream Team” of defense lawyers who helped Simpson, the former Buffalo Bills superstar, win acquittals on two murder charges after a trial in Los Angeles in 1995.

Other members of the new advisory board are: Judge Eugene F. Pigott Jr., senior associate judge of the state’s highest court, the State Court of Appeals; Judge Erin Peradotto, a justice with the Fourth Department of the State Appellate Division; Judge Richard Wesley, who serves on the Second Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals; Michael A. Battle, a Washington attorney who formerly served as a U.S. attorney in Buffalo and as a director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys in the Department of Justice; Marianne Mariano, Federal Public Defender for Western New York; Robert A. Clifford, a Chicago attorney who was lead negotiator in a $1.2 billion settlement of property damage claims from the 2001 terrorist attack in New York City; acclaimed New York City trial lawyer E. Stewart Jones Jr.; Washington attorney Christopher Viapiano, an expert in complex litigation; three well-respected Buffalo attorneys, Neil A. Goldberg, Donald Chiari and Jennifer Beckage; Harvard Law School graduate Teresa Miller, who serves as a UB Law professor and vice provost for equity and inclusion; and Steven R. Fisher, a UB Law student who is executive editor of the Buffalo Law Review.

Peradotto, Pigott, Connors, Chiari, Battle, Beckage, Goldberg and Mariano are all UB Law School alumni.

“These board members are renowned in their fields,” said Dr. Charles P. Ewing, a UB Law distinguished service professor who directs the Advocacy Institute.

The Advocacy Institute plans to arrange workshops featuring top legal professionals – including some of the new advisory board members – to help UB Law students “learn how to stand up, fight and speak up for their clients,” Connors said.

Some of the students who participate in the Advocacy Institute will work with the Innocence Project, and others will take part in the “excellent” Trial Advocacy Program directed by Amherst attorney Christopher J. O’Brien and Erie County Court Judge Thomas P. Franczyk, Connors said.

UB was tied for 100th place in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings of 196 law schools. The magazine compares and assigns rankings to law schools that are fully accredited by the American Bar Association.

The magazine’s rankings are closely watched by law school applicants. UB Law, which dates back to 1887, has seen large swings in its ranking over the years, from as high as No. 77 in 2007 to as low as “unranked” in the magazine’s 2010 rankings. In 2015, UB Law was ranked 87th.

Makau W. Mutua resigned after seven years as Law School dean in December 2014, after controversies erupted over his dealings with some faculty members.

Connors said that, in his view, “Any bumps in the road at the school are two or three years behind us.” He said he believes the Advocacy Institute could become “one of the best things to happen at UB Law School in the past 100 years.”