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What's In A Name? A Lot, Penn Law Alumni Say

Matt Fair LAW360.COM

Fearing a potential weakening of their alma mater's reputation, thousands of alumni of the newly rechristened University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School have banded together online to oppose the school's move to ditch its "Penn Law" moniker following a record $125 million donation.

Alumni interviewed by Law360 on Thursday said that shifting the school's shorthand name from Penn Law to Carey Law as a result of the gift from the W.P. Carey Foundation flew in the face of the prestige the program, one of the oldest and most well known in the country, has earned over its nearly 170 years of existence.

The $125 million donation from the Carey Foundation, announced by the university Nov. 8, is slated to fund cross-disciplinary legal studies between the law school and other parts of the Ivy League university, expand pro bono work, provide additional financial support for students and allow for additional continuing education and career counseling opportunities for alumni.

But the decision to adopt the Carey name as part of the school's shorthand drew swift and vocal consternation from both current students and alumni.

An online petition asking the university to keep the Penn Law name had garnered more than 2,600 signatures as of Thursday afternoon, including the names of BigLaw partners around the globe, a top deputy to U.S. Attorney William McSwain in Philadelphia, and the chief bankruptcy judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

But Darin Morgan, a partner with the legal recruiting firm Major Lindsey & Africa in Philadelphia, said he believed that hiring managers would quickly get used to seeing the Carey name on resumes.

"Having the Penn Law name on there is very important, but if we're just talking in terms of substance instead of branding, the underlying education is still going to be the same," he said. "I'm sure your recruiting managers at law firms will quickly pick up on the fact that the name has changed and people will still get their foot in the door."

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