Law dean search narrowed to two

The final two candidates for the GW Law School deanship will meet with the University’s top administrators this month, the last step before one secures the top spot at the No. 20-ranked law school.

Paul Berman, currently dean of Arizona State University College of Law, and Robert Schapiro, the associate vice provost for academic affairs and professor at Emory University School of Law, both received the necessary two-thirds vote of support from law school faculty to emerge as the top candidates.

“I think many people thought all were strong candidates, but it takes a supermajority. It requires a groundswell of support,” Dean Search Committee chair Roger Trangsrud said. “We’re very pleased, and most of the work of the committee is done now. It’s now in the hands of Rice Hall.”

After the candidates make their final pitches to University President Steven Knapp and Provost Steven Lerman, the six-month-long dean search will conclude, Lerman said.

Either Berman or Schapiro will replace interim dean Gregory Maggs, who has served in the top position since former GW Law School Dean Frederick Lawrence left the University last July to become president of Brandeis University.

Professors and administrators at GW praised the candidates.

“Both are excellent candidates. They bring different strengths. Dean Berman has the experience of having been a dean and is known for his creativity in trying new programs and policies. Professor Schapiro is a highly respected academic who has a reputation for fostering high-level academic work,” law professor Jonathan Turley said.

Law professor Thomas Morgan touted Berman and Schapiro as “having enormous energy” and “successful qualities” desired in a potential dean, but said they did not emphasize the changes law schools would need to make as legal jobs dwindle.

“That isn’t a criticism, but both of them will have to get real when one of them gets the job. They have to take it seriously, and I’m convinced that either one of them will take hold of it,” Morgan said.

In Berman’s three-year run as dean at Arizona State, the law school ranking jumped 17 spots to No. 40. Berman, who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after law school, has guided Arizona State with an eye on interdisciplinary work by promoting law curriculum for undergraduates.

“Getting people to work together is part of the DNA here… That’s very much the way the College of Law has been under Berman – reaching out to other areas of wisdom,” Arizona State law professor Joel Garreau said. “Everybody here is in mourning that he might go.”

Ed Hermes, a first-year law student at Arizona State, said Berman maintained positive relationships with students.

“Dean Berman has been a very active and engaged dean and has worked very hard to increase student opportunities inside and outside the law school,” Hermes said. “He has regular office hours to meet with any student who wants to talk with him and has a very pervasive and positive presence at almost every function.”

Schapiro graduated from Yale Law School and clerked for former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens from 1991 to 1992.

He amassed various administrative positions at Emory, working as a law professor there for 18 years, and serving as associate dean of faculty of the law school. This year, Schapiro also worked as the associate vice provost for academic affairs for the university.

“He knows how comprehensive research universities run. A dean has to know what the challenges are for the provost and the president. And he has that as a result of his experience,” Emory School of Law Dean David Parlett said.

Schapiro has also supported Emory’s clinical programs – which provide law students more practical learning – and has “the tremendous respect of everyone on the faculty for his scholarship,” Parlett said.

Neither Schapiro or Berman returned a request for comment.

This article was updated April 21, 2011 to reflect the following:
The article quoted GW Law School professor Robert Turley and referenced former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In fact, the law professor’s first name is Jonathan and Ginsberg is a current member of the Supreme Court.

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