Law School whittles dean search to eight candidates

The GW Law School has narrowed its dean search down to eight candidates, who have been meeting with GW faculty, students and administrators over the last month to tout their merits as the best leaders and fundraisers to head the school.

Roger Trangsrud, the chair of the dean search committee, said they have a diverse crop of potential deans, including candidates who are female, African-American and gay, as well as sitting deans, associate deans and faculty from Ivy League schools and other highly ranked law schools.

“We didn’t select these people for those reasons,” Trangsrud said. “We sought out the strongest candidates we could find, but we didn’t want eight candidates that looked exactly like one another.”

Trangsrud said GW wants to tap a dean with fundraising expertise as well as “significant administrative ability” and a “substantial record of legal scholarship.”

“We need more resources, so the dean needs to spend a great deal of time doing fundraising. We have many more good ideas in the building than we have money to make them work,” Trangsrud said. “The dean’s job will be to help find those resources.”

The 12-person search committee will whittle the pool from eight to five after the last candidate interviews on campus in March. The faculty will then vote on three or more candidates, with University President Steven Knapp and Provost Steven Lerman making a final decision in May.

Frederick Lawrence – who served as dean of the law school from 2005 until this past December – announced this summer he was leaving the University to become president of Brandeis University. Former Associate Dean Gregory Maggs assumed the interim dean position but he did not seek the permanent deanship.

Lawrence Mitchell, a business law professor, is the only remaining candidate from GW, law school officials said. Mitchell is also the executive director of GW’s Center for Law, Economics & Finance, a law school think tank.

Mitchell did not return a request for comment.

The search committee only sought candidates who would qualify for faculty tenure, which is a requirement of the school’s faculty code and the American Bar Association, the law school’s accrediting agency.

With the law school currently standing at No. 20 in U.S. News and World Report’s coveted rankings, the search comes at a turning point for the school as it aims to advance its position on the list.

“I think the coming years will be the most important in this school’s history.?We have made extraordinary gains under [former deans]. However, we will need to double our effort if we want to displace a school in the top 10,” Jonathan Turley, a nationally recognized legal scholar who has taught at GW for more than 20 years, said.

The new dean will also take charge during an uncertain period for law students across the country, as law school enrollment increases but student debt and openings at law firms are decreasing.

“Many of our students are quite justifiably anxious about the job market so the new dean will have to think about what we as a law school can do to help students in that difficult market,” Trangsrud said.

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