Thursday, November 29, 2012

Are law schools recruiting practicing lawyers as deans to show they are serious about a practical legal education?

This post from the ABA Journal blog notes that a few law schools of late have recruited accomplished practitioners to serve as their deans eschewing traditional career academics.  The most recent of these decisions involves the appointment of a former Kirkland & Ellis managing partner to the deanship at Catholic University School of Law.  Does this micro-trend signal an effort by those schools to improve their street cred with employers by hiring experienced lawyers who signal "we're serious about training practice-ready law grads."  Are these schools hoping that a high profile practitioner will be able to leverage his or her broad contacts in the community into more job opportunities for students?   That might be the intent but in my limited experience with this sort of thing it seems to produce a clash of cultures that makes it difficult for the dean to effectively manage career academics. But perhaps the time is ripe for some schools who want to break from tradition by embracing a practitioner at the helm. We shall see.

Anyway, here's an excerpt from the ABA Journal story:

The managing partner of the Washington, D.C., office of Kirkland & Ellis is on the verge of a significant career change, one that may also signal a growing new emphasis on legal jobs at the nation's law schools.

Daniel F. Attridge will take the helm as law dean of Catholic University of America in July, the Washington Post's College Inc. blog reports. He has been a partner of the law firm since 1985 and served as its managing partner since 1998.

It is the second time this year that a law school has made the unusual appointment of a practicing lawyer for its top job, according to the National Law Journal.

Brooklyn Law School announced in March that Nicholas W. Allard, who was then chair of the lobbying and election law practice at Patton Boggs, would be its next dean.

A third practitioner, trial lawyer Tom Keefe Jr., accepted a temporary appointment as law dean at St. Louis University earlier this year and said he plans to run his law practice concurrently.

. . . .

As numerous posts have detailed, many law schools are seeing a significant decline in enrollment and a number of their graduates have had difficulty finding legal work in recent years, due to the struggling economy and efforts by corporations to cut costs for the well-paid legal work that used to help fuel more law firm hiring.


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I do think it is partially for "street cred", but I also see it as a good opportunity to generate revenue from the firm the desn left as well as forge a path for students to get employment at that firm. It can be a win-win "if" the dean can understand and respect the differences between managing lawyers and managing professors. I sm sure it is very different indeed!

Posted by: Kendall Isaac | Nov 30, 2012 4:04:42 PM

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