Wednesday, September 20, 2017

An Ode To A Great Law Dean Visionary - Dan Rodriguez of Northwestern who is stepping down as Dean at the end of this academic year

Dan Rodriguez, Dean of Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, will be stepping down at the end of this academic year.  My spring 2018 course will be the fourth year I will teach part time at Northwestern and so I disclose that Dan is my part time boss.  

Dan is the most visionary Dean at any law school in the United States.  He has a keen sense of the fundamental transformations that have occurred in the legal workplace, how law responds and shapes disruptive innovation, and he has identified changes to the structure in higher education more generally.  He made changes to the Northwestern law curriculum that seem to have improved student learning and development of critical analytical skills.  He is also a wildly successful fundraiser, including a $100 million transformative gift from law alum JB Pritzker.

Dan launched the largest and most successful master of science of law program in the country.  My students in that program are really great and have gotten better each year.  The program started with a simple, and in retrospect, obvious proposition (and most of the best ideas are obvious in retrospect): many of the people involved in business who interface with law are not lawyers by training.  Yet, law both shapes their opportunities and emerging business and technology structures reshape law.  These non-lawyer individuals require some amount of legal training and legal astuteness for their business needs but not a general legal education.  The Master of Science of Law (MSL) program brings together the study of  the intersection of law, business and technology to fill this educational gap.  The program (headed by the incredibly capable Leslie Oster) has over 100 STEM professional students enrolled in only its fourth year.

Dan has created bridges across disciplinary silos at Northwestern and worked with other units on campus such as engineering, the business school and arts and sciences on joint programming and other collaborative initiatives.  Let me provide just two examples.  I worked on a program relating to the basics of start up law (VC financing, IP and exit strategies) that was co-sponsored with a number of units on campus that brought in lots of students and faculty who were thinking about their own high tech ventures.  In another setting, Dan organized what I thought was the highly successful Bridges II: The Law-STEM Alliance & Next Generation Innovation conference and related brainstorming session among law faculty involved in innovation.

Dan also has done a very good job in hiring a talented and diverse pool of faculty across a number of different areas of law and analytical approaches.  We had Destiny Peery (law and psych, implicit bias) give a talk in our UF Faculty Workshop series last year.  I also like the work of junior scholar Laura Pedraza-Fariña (IP sociology).   Among lateral hires, some of the great ones in recent years have included: Dave Schwartz (empirical patents), Alex Lee (theoretical law and econ), Ajay Mehrotra (tax), and Sarah Lawsky (tax).

Dan has accomplished much and Northwestern and legal education more generally are better off because of Dan.  Let me also put in a shout out to my full time Dean, Laura Rosenbury, who also has done a very good job and is transforming the University of Florida for the better.

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