Oklahoma Legal Group Blog's series highlighting law school deans across the country. The full text of his interview with Adam Banner is reprinted below with permission.
Regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach, Virginia, was
established in 1986, and in just 30 short years, has grown to be
recognized as having
a faculty ranked among the top 10 American law school faculties.
Regent Law is unique in providing a legal education with a Christian
and its Honors Program boasts a 92.3 percent first-time bar passage
rate. Its moot court program ranks 5th in the nation, and in 2015,
Regent Law ranked
in the top 25 percent of all law schools for graduates obtaining
In 1992, Michael V. Hernandez joined the faculty at Regent
Law, where he has taught courses including Appellate Advocacy, Advanced
Christian Foundations of Law, International Human Rights,
Property, and Race & the Law. He served as the director of the LL.M.
Legal Studies degree program, the director of the Honors
Program, faculty advisor to the Moot Court Board and to the Hispanic Law
and as the head coach of Regent's award-winning Moot Court teams
prior to becoming Dean of Regent University School of Law in 2015.
As Dean, he works with a distinguished and nationally-recognized law
faculty that includes includes former United States Attorney General
and the Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice,
Dr. Jay Sekulow.
As part of our continuing Law Deans series, we asked Dean Hernandez
for his perspective and insight into legal education and the changing
face of the legal
What is the biggest challenge facing new law students?
I understand this question in two ways. Regarding the adjustment to
law school, the first year traditionally has been, and remains, the most
academic experience for the majority of students. At all law
schools, the challenge involves learning how to engage and master the
and strategically—to "think like a lawyer." At Regent, we challenge
our students to develop these analytical skills without losing, and
while strengthening, their moral compass. Regarding the unique
challenges law students face today, the legal education and job markets
are in flux,
facing typical modern economic disruptions. The challenge for all
new law students will be to develop the substantive knowledge and
practical skills necessary to be excellent attorneys while also
being equipped to thrive in the modern economy.
What is the single biggest challenge that you face as Dean?
Maintaining and building Regent Law's distinctive Christian mission
and commitment to academic excellence while adapting to the disrupted
and job markets.
Which areas of the law do you think will experience the biggest growth over the next few years?
In terms of practice growth, the intersection of technology and the
law—computer law, cybersecurity, and related fields. In terms of
prominence, religious liberty issues. Fundamental challenges to the
principles of freedom upon which this nation was founded and the
jurisprudential presuppositions upon which those principles were
established are on the immediate horizon and will be at the forefront of
Is teaching law now different compared to when you were a law student?
Yes and no. Aspects of excellent law teaching—inspiring students to
dig deep, develop analytical skills, and master material with guidance
rather than complete dependence on, the instructor—are timeless, and
the essential art of learning the law has not changed. However,
has profoundly impacted education. The current generation of
students is much more visually oriented and spatially aware—but also
distracted—than earlier generations were. Like most attributes,
these are both strengths and weaknesses. In living out the Golden Rule,
balance challenging students to grow while we enter their world; in
other words, we must develop their skills and play to their strengths
but not cater
to their weaknesses.
How do you think technology will impact criminal defense?
Technology already has profoundly impacted criminal law in both good
and bad ways. Improved technology has increased the certainty of guilt
the innocent. Technological advances will continue to have this
positive impact. On the negative side, jurors often have unrealistic
the availability of definitive scientific evidence and thus the
ability of the prosecution to pinpoint guilt. This "CSI effect" arguably
a de facto "beyond any doubt" standard in many criminal cases.
Although that heightened standard will lead to fewer improper
convictions, it is unworkable
in an imperfect world and will also lead to the exoneration of many
culprits who should be convicted.
What do you think are the biggest legal challenges facing the Supreme Court?
The most important legal challenge will be, as I noted above,
determining whether to maintain an unshakable commitment to the
principles of freedom, most
notably religious liberty, upon which this nation was founded. The
Court's biggest general challenge will be to maintain its legitimacy
and fairly adjudicating disputes in a non-political way. The Court
usually meets this standard but often fails to do so in highly
The Constitution does not establish a federal judiciary of general
jurisdiction, and thus the Supreme Court is not the highest court in the
all legal issues. Instead, the federal government, including the
federal judiciary, has limited, specified supreme powers, with most
matters left to
state and local authorities and tribunals. Many justices, on both
the right and left, adjudicate disputes as if they had comprehensive
common law authority,
leaving our nation governed by the dictates of five unelected and
largely unaccountable individuals. This approach is antithetical to the
and balanced form of government our Constitution establishes and the
principle of subsidiarity essential to liberty and good governance.
Are there any aspects of practicing law you miss due to being in education?
I litigated for five years before I joined the faculty at Regent Law.
I miss the challenge and thrill of strategizing and crafting legal
arguments on behalf
of real clients. I have, however, been able to put those skills to
good use, both as Dean and also previously through my work with our moot
which I am pleased to note ranked fifth among all U.S. law schools
If you could invite any three legal or governmental
identities (living or dead, real or fictitious) to a meal, whom would
Moses, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson. Moses because he was
the first "law giver" and judge, his personal story is fascinating, and I
discussing the substance and modern significance of principles
embedded in the Decalogue and the Torah. James Madison, because he was
drafter of our Constitution, a brilliant legal mind, and the
preeminent defender of religious liberty in our nation, if not in all
Thomas Jefferson, because I am a "double 'Hoo" (B.A. and J.A.,
University of Virginia), and I would like to discuss his views of
the metaphorical "wall" he employed in his letter to the Danbury
Baptists. (Dr. Dan Dreisbach has demonstrated from detailed and
analysis that Mr. Jefferson meant the wall to protect the church
from the state, not the public square from religious influences.)
What is your favorite legal movie?
For me, this is the most difficult question you have asked,
because I am not a movie aficionado, and I tend to be distracted by
unrealistic movie court
scenes, which are unfortunately quite common. The most iconic
movie courtroom scene is Tom Cruise confronting Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men.
The most fun movie that includes an important courtroom scene is Miracle on 34th Street (1947 version, of course). The most
important legal movie is To Kill A Mockingbird.
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