Janet Kerr (SC '75; SOL '78) has been a member of the law faculty since 1983. Twice honored as a Luckman Distinguished Teaching Fellow, she also served as associate dean of academics (1987-90), in which role she helped establish the school's first joint degree program: the JD/MBA. She currently dedicates herself to students as professor of law and the executive director of the Palmer Center for Entrepreneurship and the Law. Pepperdine People sat down with Professor Kerr to ask her a few questions.
You recently traveled to Bangladesh to award the inaugural Social Entrepreneur of the Year award to Dr. Muhammad Yunus for his work with microcredit. Tell us a little about the trip and why you chose Dr. Yunus for the award.
Dr. Yunus and the bank that he founded, Grameen Bank, were the corecipients of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. Dr. Yunus developed microfinance--that is, lending money to the poorest of the poor to help them start small businesses to sustain themselves and their families. Microfinance has germinated into thousands of organizations and institutions worldwide, now spanning continents and changing the lives of millions of people. The Palmer Center is developing many initiatives in social entrepreneurship and finds Dr. Yunus's work to be truly inspirational. As a result of our trip to Bangladesh, we have established a long-term relationship with Dr. Yunus and several Palmer Fellows have been selected by Dr. Yunus' organization to intern this summer with him and Grameen Bank.
How big of a role do internships play in a Palmer Center Fellow's educational experience?
We have a one-of-a-kind academic model that combines both law and business within a law school setting. This model is exemplified not only in the curriculum but also in the number of internships and externships that we have made available to our Fellows. These opportunities are in the areas of specialization found within the Palmer Center: real estate and real estate development; entertainment/intellectual property/technology; and corporate/finance/securities regulation. Entrepreneurship runs through all these areas.
What is on the horizon for next year in terms of your own work, as well as developments at the Palmer Center?
I just finished an article in corporate law titled "Sustainability Meets Profitability: The Convenient Truth of How the Business Judgment Rule Protects a Board's Decision to Engage in Social Entrepreneurship." I sit on the board of a publicly-held corporation and believe we are entering a new area of social-impact decisions that do not need to sacrifice shareholder profits; in fact, these decisions can enhance the financial picture.
The Palmer Center will continue to seek academic excellence through developing more programs that support the University mission. Next year we will have two academic conferences: one in the area of real property and the other in social entrepreneurship. The center will also introduce the Foley Lectureship series featuring academic and professional leaders in law and business.
From the Spring 2007 issue of Pepperdine People.