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Earlier this week I announced to faculty and staff that I have stepped aside as Dean of the University of Houston Law Center.  My good friend and Associate Dean, Richard Alderman, has taken over as Interim Dean.  A national search for a new dean will begin shortly. I plan to take the remainder of this year off, although I will be available to give Richard and the search committee any advice they desire. Additionally, I will take a one-year sabbatical during the next academic year and return to the faculty the following year.

This is something I began discussing with Provost John Antel in late September.  The timing of reaching final arrangements was delayed by a series of illnesses and Johnís departure in December, followed by the appointment of an Interim Provost in January. My goal has always been to provide a smooth transition this year that leaves the Law Center in a strong position going forward and I believe this arrangement accomplishes that goal.

I have never believed that deans should serve for extended periods of time and am somewhat surprised I have been Dean for almost seven years. However, it has been a pleasure to serve as dean of this law center. My reasons for leaving include concerns regarding my own health, my belief that during my almost seven years as dean at the Law Center it has achieved essentially all of the goals I set out to accomplish from the very beginning despite challenging financial times.

Let me talk briefly about some of the things we have accomplished together over the past seven years:

  • Our faculty transformed from a very contentious group to one of the closest, most collegial and positive working environments with which I have ever had the pleasure of being associated. This is reflected in the incredible productivity that we have attained.
  • We have reorganized both our first year curriculum and our third year curriculum, building our already strong base to add requirements involving non-traditional skills and our new synthesis program for third year students.
  • We have solidified our position as the best law school in Houston moving back up the U.S. rankings into the 50's, while consistently placing in the top 40 in various other qualitative rankings, and maintaining national recognition for excellence in several fields, including intellectual property, health law, and energy. In fact in a National Law Journal survey released Monday, UHLC's ranking rose to 29th as a 'Go To' law school for hiring of recent grads by top 250 firms. Our Law Review has attained worldwide ranking in the top 3% of law journals based on the number of citations.
  • Long before the current legal recession, we right sized the Law Center substantially reducing JD enrollment while expanding our LLM programs, including foreign lawyer LLM enrollment. This latter development corresponds to an expansion of our agreements with foreign law schools, the creation of the Center for U.S. and Mexican Law, and with training programs with major foreign oil companies.  
  • We have greatly increased student support, including tripling scholarship funding, expanding the counseling capabilities of our Career Development Office (contributing to strong successful placement in a difficult market) and creating a Graduate Assistance Program (that provides benefits such as free PLI courses, and public interest fellowships).
  • We have hired fourteen new tenure track faculty, with one offer outstanding. I believe this new group of tenure track faculty will continue to ensure the continued success of the law school. Additionally, the quality and number of faculty working in our legal clinics and writing programs has greatly improved. My goal of maintaining faculty size despite the reduction in JD student enrollment was achieved. This created a significant improvement in the faculty-student ratio.  Unfortunately, there have been a number of senior faculty departures, but the result has been to transform the faculty to a young one consisting of bright, committed scholars and teachers. 
  • We reorganized and revitalized the law schoolís alumni organization, which has resulted in stronger alumni involvement with the law center and this involvement continues to grow. This rejuvenated alumni program corresponds to a strengthened and expanded professional marketing program and an office of external affairs.  The coordination of these efforts produced professional and aggressive fund-raising, which lead to increased financial support from alumni even though many have faced the same financial challenges that exist throughout the legal profession.  Our Law Foundation had total assets of about $16 million seven years ago and today it is around $22 million. While this still may not be as large as we would like, the increase provides important flexibility for the school and is a success on the part of everyone involved.
  • We reorganized our budgeting and accounting processes.  They now enable planning and decision making with confidence and that can optimize the use of limited resources.  Many view our internal structure as a model for campus. 

There are many more accomplishments for which we should all be proud, but I will stop here.  This has been an amazing seven years and it has been my pleasure to work with each and every one of you.  I believe that the Law Center is poised for great achievements in the future and has both the will and resources to accomplish them.  Upon the completion of my sabbatical, I look forward to returning to the classroom, working with all of you once more and continuing to watch this amazing institution thrive and expand to meet its full potential.

 

RTN