A Look Back with Professor Ilene Klein and Professor Gary Monserud
We often talk about the strong sense of community at New England Law. It is built into the fabric of the law school in no small part due to a faculty that is truly invested in the success of their students. Two long-term faculty members who retired in 2021 made an indelible mark on countless New England Law | Boston graduates.
Professor Ilene Klein and Professor Gary Monserud collectively have taught thousands of alumni and have made a tremendous impact on the legal community. Although their time teaching at New England Law has come to a close, they are both finding ways to continue to give back and stay connected.
A Passion for Clinical Education
In December 2020, Klein wrapped up her 32-year tenure teaching in the clinic at New England Law. Klein relished teaching in a clinical research setting because it was a way to combine all of the things she loves: teaching, practicing law, helping people in need, and serving as an advocate.
Klein started her career at the North Central Western Virginia Legal Aid Society where she was a legal services attorney in a general civil practice. Klein was working for Cape Cod Legal Services when the opportunity to join New England Law came up. She was enjoying working as a housing attorney serving Plymouth County, which is an area with unique challenges for tenants. “There is a great deal of seasonal housing; so many families have homes only until mid-May,” explained Klein. “A lot of low income people ended up in campgrounds because they had nowhere else to live.” Klein helped tenants who were getting evicted. Although this was rewarding work, she could not pass up the opportunity to teach at New England Law.
“I always knew I wanted to be a clinical law teacher, in part due to a tough experience I had in law school,” said Klein. “I was taking a criminal law clinic and the very first thing I had to do was to enter a plea for a mother and daughter in a shoplifting case. When I showed up at court, my supervisor wasn’t there. I was there by myself, looking like I was about 12 years old, and in front of a full courtroom the judge yelled out ‘Ms. Klein, where is your supervisor?’ Of course he told me without my supervisor, I could not enter a plea and my clients had to enter their own plea. I was mortified and I wanted to make sure that never happened to another law student.”
Facing New Challenges
“I enjoy representing clients, teaching students how to practice law, how to be an advocate and also educating them on the inequities in the justice system,” said Klein. The final semester at New England Law added a new component to Klein’s work. In addition to the skills she had been teaching for several decades, she had to help students and clients with situations that none had faced before.
In many ways, the last semester was one of the most challenging of Klein’s career. Zoom court, zoom teaching, and adapting a clinical program through a global pandemic were collectively three monumental tasks. During this time, hearings were done over the phone and internet. Clients of the clinic are typically low income, and they had less than optimal technology and many had children at home doing online school. Klein had to add time in to practice Zoom with clients to ensure that when they appeared before a judge, everything went as well as possible. She was often on Zoom for ten hours a day. According to Klein, the relationships she had with students in that first semester helped the teaching process. Although they were meeting online she could tell how they were coping—or not coping—with the situation. With that knowledge basis, Klein and her colleagues were doing double duty trying to help a host of different students balance life, schoolwork, client service, and the new normal of quarantine.
Klein has been enjoying spending time with family during retirement. She has helped raise several children who now have children of their own and every Thursday she gets to take them to the library for story time. She continues to serve as an advocate doing part-time work for the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) and also mentoring young lawyers as a volunteer with Saheli Boston.
Russell Engler, Professor of Law and Director of Clinical Programs, summed up the feelings of Klein’s many colleagues, students, and friends: “Ilene Klein was a wonderful colleague and mentor for her students. She relished teaching her students not only the mechanics of practicing law, but the understanding of the situations her clients faced and how her students could use their legal training to make a dramatic difference in her clients’ lives. It is not surprising that she built such strong professional relationships with her students that she continued to mentor them, and many other lawyers, over the years. We were so lucky to have her as a colleague and we miss her in the clinic, but know she is thriving in her well-deserved retirement.”
Dedication and Drive
Professor Gary Monserud wrapped up his classroom work at the end of the 2020-2021 academic year, however, he is open to teaching at New England Law again if circumstances permit. Much like Klein, he is always open to mentoring, giving advice, and has made a lasting impact on several generations of New England Law attorneys.
“I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to teach and serve at New England Law for 34 years,” said Monserud.
Monserud always enjoyed teaching and connecting with young people. Prior to going to law school, he spent three years as a public school teacher. He taught middle school and high school students in small towns in South Dakota before he went to law school. A former law clerk to the Honorable Andrew W. Bogue of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota, he practiced in the area of commercial litigation in Rapid City, South Dakota, before joining the New England Law faculty in 1987.
A fateful breakfast meeting at the AALS meeting in Chicago led to his career at New England Law. Although there were no slots available for interviews, Monserud was invited to stop by for breakfast and meet some members of the New England Law faculty. He made a positive impression and was invited to interview in Boston. He was favorably impressed by the faculty and students at the law school and accepted an offer to teach as soon as an offer was forthcoming.
Former Dean and President John O’Brien had the privilege and pleasure of working with Gary Monserud during nearly his entire career at New England Law. “To say that he is an extraordinarily gifted teacher somehow seems an understatement, not truly capturing his talent, kindness, and unrelenting determination to do everything in his power to help our students learn and succeed,” said O’Brien.
Over the course of his time at New England Law, Monserud taught Contracts, Modern Remedies, UCC: Sales, and UCC: Secured Transactions. He has written extensively on current issues in sales law, the law of suretyship, and the law pertaining to special education.
Monserud did not shy away from committee work that was some of the most difficult work at the law school. He wanted to tackle these tasks to really help students with some of the bigger challenges they faced. One of his notable projects included chairing a task force on the bar exam. This work examined everything the school was doing to help students prepare for the exam. The Task Force’s report resulted in the hiring of Professor Robert “Coach” Coulthard, who has helped countless students “Crush the Bar.”
Monserud is currently looking forward to spending more time with family, especially his new grandson. He and his wife, Ann, have three daughters, Josephine, Eleanor, and Ingrid. Ingrid is autistic. This has led him to spend much of his time working with her on a horse farm in Merrimac, Massachusetts, where she does chores and is learning to ride and care for the horses.
Learn more: Meet the faculty of New England Law | Boston