Law School Dean Watch: Will Schools Hire More Deans from Private Practice, not Academia?

By: Steve Grumm

Catholic Law just hired Kirland & Ellis’s DC-office managing partner as its new dean.  Brooklyn Law did something similar recently.  It’s only two hires, but it’s interesting to wonder whether pressures on the law-school business model will lead to more schools bringing in deans who’ve got law practice management skills.  Here’s the latest from the National Law Journal:

For the second time in the past year, a law school has tapped a new dean directly out of private practice. 

The Catholic University of America on November 27 named Daniel Attridge as the future dean of its Columbus School of Law. Attridge has been the managing partner of Kirkland & Ellis’ Washington office since 1998.

In March, Brooklyn Law School chose Nicholas Allard, then chairman of Patton Boggs’ lobbying, political and election law practice, as its new dean. Leaders at Saint Louis University also named local trial lawyer Tom Keefe Jr. as dean in August, but only on an interim basis.

Attridge’s appointment could signal an increased willingness among university and law school leaders to look beyond the scope of academia, politics and the bench for dean candidates, particularly at a time when the traditional law school business model is under enormous pressure. Catholic University President John Garvey, who previously headed Boston College Law School, said that Attridge will bring something different to the table.

There are just over 200 ABA-accredited schools.  And, again, these are just two hires.  But it’s still worth considering whether schools will look to lawyers with law-practice management skills as they choose current deans’ successors.

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