Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Wilkes' New Dean of Law School Planning Initiative

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.

Wilkes University announces that Loren D. Prescott Jr. has been appointed dean for the Wilkes University Law School Planning Initiative.

Prescott, who has served as vice dean and professor at Widener University School of Law, Harrisburg, Pa., will lead efforts to develop plans for northeastern Pennsylvania’s first law school. Preliminary plans call for enrolling between 80 and 100 first-year students in fall 2010.

As dean, Prescott will also complete an in-depth market analysis of enrollment trends, of the parameters for the law school library, and develop a trailblazing curriculum that answers many of the critiques of legal education today. He is scheduled to submit the final plans for the law school for consideration by the Wilkes Board of Trustees at its April 2009 meeting.

“If feasible, the addition of a law school represents a great opportunity for the revitalization of Wilkes-Barre and the region. Wilkes’ mentoring culture is uniquely suited to training a new generation of attorneys skilled in the practice, not just the theory, of law,” said Tim Gilmour, president of Wilkes University.

“Chip Prescott brings both experience and vision to this initiative. We’re honored to have a leader of his caliber to lead the effort.” * * *
I learned about this appointment in an email message sent by Chip on May 7th. I was surprised, and pleased.

When I first learned about the proposal to create a new law school in the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton area, to join eight existing law schools in Pennsylvania, I was skeptical. See: PA EE&F Law Blog posting New Law School at Wilkes University? (03/06/07).

My concerns were not founded in the ability of Wilkes University to create an academically suitable law school, or the need in Northeastern Pennsylvania for graduate-level education, or the economic benefits that a law school might bring in that region, or even the capability of Wilkes to attract qualified, committed faculty and eager, tuition-paying law students into a new law school.

No, my concern was simple: Where would more law school graduates find jobs once educated?

My updates to that posting reinforced my concerns, to which I urged studied consideration:
The "job market" and the implied promise made to law students when they pay (or borrow) the tuition necessary to attend law school -- that further education will increase their employment opportunities -- should be one of the elements to be considered by those charged with examining a new law school at Wilkes University.
By February of this year, the concept for a new law school, as sketched by the Wilkes University Board of Trustees, was embodied in its search for a designing dean. See: PA EE&F Law Blog posting Proposed Wilkes Law School Seeks Dean (02/06/08).

I was pleasantly surprised by the pragmatic, innovative approach adopted for the proposed new law school, as evidenced by its reliance upon
a detailed report, entitled "Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law" (2007), issued by the Carnegie Foundation.

I concluded by noting that, "[w]
ithout question, the format for an effective institutional legal education is changing." I became hopeful that such a new law school could, indeed, meet not only the needs of a university, a region, and an economy in Pennsylvania, but also of students who would become prepared, by a legal education, to function productively while paid adequate compensation.

Now I learn that Chip Prescott will be the one to guide this new law school into being.

"Well, bust my buttons! Why didn't you say that in the first place? That's a horse of a different color! Come on in!"

My skepticism had paralleled that of the gatekeeper to the grand, Emerald City in the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz:
[Reaching the gate into the Emerald City, Dorothy and her friends ring the bell. A Gateman appears through a porthole.]

Gateman: Who rang that bell?!
All four: We did!
Gateman: Can't you read?!
Scarecrow: Read what?
Gateman: The notice!
All four: What notice?
Gateman: It's on the door, as plain as the nose on my face! It's a [Realizes there is no notice] Oh-- Oh... [Hangs a notice on the door, then disappears]
All Four: [Reading the notice] "Bell out of order. Please knock." [Dorothy knocks on the knocker, and the Gateman reemerges]
Gateman: Well, that's more like it! Now, state your business.
All four: We want to see the Wizard.
Gateman: [Nearly falls out of his porthole from shock] The Wizard?! But nobody can see the Great Oz! Nobody's ever seen the Great Oz! Even I've never seen him!
Dorothy: Well, then — how do you know there is one?
Gateman: Because he, uh... You're wasting my time!
Dorothy: Oh please, please sir. I've got to see the Wizard. The Good Witch of the North sent me.
Gateman: Prove it. * * *
Once Dorothy displays the Ruby Slippers, the Gatekeeper says, "Well, bust my buttons"; and she, with her companions, are ushered into the Emerald City, where they prepare to do their longer & harder work.

Chip Prescott is as special as Dorothy Gale in that movie,
The Wizard of Oz.

He does not wear Ruby Slippers (thank goodness), but he radiates personal characteristics that gleam just as brightly. He is honest, intelligent, resourceful, devoted, reliable, sensitive, social, respectful, and funny. He is one of the finest people I've encountered. I am privileged to consider him my friend.

He understands the need for practical legal education, responsive to the changing needs of our citizens and also targeted at graduates' productive employment.

Just as Dorothy possessed the necessary desire and qualities to perform her mission with the support of her companions, which resulted in growth and goodness in the lives of those she touched in that movie's fantasy, Chip Prescott possesses the commitment and character to materialize a new law school with the support of Wilkes University and the host that will join the effort, which will benefit Pennsylvanians in reality.

I congratulate him on his acceptance of this new challenge; and I congratulate the folks at Wilkes University for selecting him.
Scarecrow: What have you learned, Dorothy?
Dorothy: Well, I—I think that it, that it wasn't enough just to want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em — and it's that — if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with! Is that right?
Glinda: That's all it is! * * *
Glinda: Then close your eyes and tap your heels together three times. And think to yourself, 'There's no place like home'.
* * *
Update: 05/27/08:

On May 27, 2008, The Citizens Voice, in Northeastern PA, published an extensive, complimentary article about Chip Prescott, entitled "New dean of Wilkes law school initiative ready for the challenge", by Caleb Sheaffer:
This summer, Loren D. “Chip” Prescott Jr. has many things on his plate.

The first is cleaning his office of 18 years at Widener University School of Law in Harrisburg.

The second is starting as the appointed dean for the Wilkes University Law School Planning Initiative. He’s also becoming a grandfather and completing work on a doctorate in public administration.

Last, he is meeting with a consultant in Chicago to discuss the accreditation process for a law school that four years ago was only an idea.

It’s a law school that Prescott hopes will open its doors at Wilkes University by 2010, graduating its first class by 2013. It’s also a law school that Prescott sees as a bold move by Wilkes University, which will benefit Wilkes-Barre and Northeastern Pennsylvania upon its completion.

“The biggest challenge is this involves the creation of a new institution,” Prescott said. “In higher education, the opportunity to create an institution is unusual.”

Prescott, 52, of Harrisburg, starts the job as dean of the Wilkes University Law School Planning Initiative on June 2. He will be responsible for presenting a complete plan for the law school to the Wilkes University Board of Trustees by April 2009. * * *