Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Proposed Wilkes Law School Seeks Dean

On February 3, 2008, an article entitled "Recruitment for Dean of Law School initiative intensifies" was posted by The Beacon, sponsored by Wilkes University (Wilkes-Barre, PA), which provided an update about that University's proposed new law school.

The article noted that "a definite decision has not been made to start a law school, but choosing a dean to lead the decision-making process brings the university one step closer to doing so."

I previously noted the proposal for a new law school in Wilkes-Barre, PA, in my PA EE&F Law Blog posting "
New Law School at Wilkes University?" (03/06/07), updated thereafter.

The recent article reported at length about the current dean-selection process, and about the law school being envisioned. I include a few excerpts here:

In approximately two weeks, Wilkes University plans to begin scheduling campus visits for finalists of the Dean of Law School Initiative Search, according to Dr. Reynold C. Verret, Provost. * * *

According to the prospectus for the Dean of Wilkes Law School Initiative, "[l]ate last spring [2007], after preliminary studies and consultations, the faculty and the trustees endorsed a recommendation from the Provost to move the law school initiative into a final phase."
The "final phase" essentially consists of three parts: a detailed academic plan, a financial plan and a dean to aid in the creation and presentation of both plans. * * *

The prospectus also stresses the importance of being able to communicate, plan, budget and manage effectively and willingly embrace diversity. * * *

Responsibilities of the dean would include creating a "compelling, marketable vision for legal education," developing a five-year financial and academic plan for the law school, assisting in the final decisions about the school and inevitably becoming and acting as the founding dean of the school if and when it is approved and launched.

"We are on track in our plan for a law school that will distinguish Wilkes and address issues for legal education outlined in a recent report by the Carnegie Foundation (Education Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law, 2007)," said Verret. Paying close attention to the Carnegie report, which addresses the criticisms of legal education, the prospectus states that Wilkes has the ability and opportunity to rise above any "inattentions," such as practitioner concerns or ethics and civility within the profession.

"Wilkes has a concept of not creating what is being called a 'me too' law school, but one that has a distinctive curriculum. We'll be perceived in the marketplace as innovative, so one of things that we're looking for is someone willing to think outside of the box and willing to create the current model of law school education and has ideas of how to do it better," said Browne. * * *

With the nearest Pennsylvania law schools in Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, it's possible that 75-100 graduate students will enter the program in the first year. * * *

If all goes according to plan, the dean of the law school will be chosen by this summer. The dean's plan should be approved by spring of 2009 and the first class of law students at Wilkes University may begin their first semester in the fall of 2010. * * *

A very detailed description of the proposed law school at Wilkes University, and the expectations of its Dean, are set forth in a document posted by Academic Search, Inc., entitled "Wilkes Law School Initiative -- A Prospectus for the Search" (PDF, 10 pages), dated October 2, 2007.

The "recent report", referenced both in the article and also in the Prospectus, regarding changes in legal education to be more effective, was
entitled "Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law" (2007), issued by the Carnegie Foundation:
The Foundation's two-year study of legal education involved a comprehensive look at teaching and learning in American and Canadian law schools today.

Intensive field work was conducted at a cross-section of 16 law schools during the 1999-2000 academic year.

The study provides an opportunity to rethink "thinking like a lawyer" — the paramount educational construct currently employed, which affords students powerful intellectual tools while also shaping education and professional practice in subsequent years in significant, yet often unrecognized, ways. * * *
That report's table of contents is available from the publisher's Web site. See also the report's Summary of the Findings and Recommendations (PDF).

The report was the subject of commentary in articles and blog postings last year. See:
  • "Ahead of Our Time", by Dean Emily A. Spieler, of Northeastern University Law School (Summer, 2007).
Without question, the format for an effective institutional legal education is changing.

Update: 05/20/08:

On May 7, 2008, Wilkes University issued a Press Release, entitled "Wilkes Takes Big Step to Creating New Law School -- Announces Dean of Law School Planning Initiative". The named dean is Loren ("Chip") D. Prescott, Jr., now of Harrisburg, PA.

Chip is a good friend of mine. His appointment reassures me about the future of the proposed new law school.
See: PA EE&F Law Blog posting "Wilkes' New Dean of Law School Planning Initiative " (05/20/08).